TV’s Youth Obsession Backfiring?
AP television critic David Bauder reports on a Harris Interactive study that finds the television industry’s catering to the under-40 crowd is not paying off.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they believe that most TV programming and advertising is targeted toward people under 40, the survey said. More than 80 percent of adults over 40 say they have a hard time finding TV shows that reflect their lives. A significant number of baby boomers — 37 percent — say they aren’t happy with what’s on television, according to the study.
The theory among advertisers is that it’s important to reach young people as their preferences are forming — get them hooked on a certain toothpaste or soda early and they’ll be hooked for life. Advertisers will pay a premium for young viewers: $335 for every thousand people in the 18-to-24 age range that a network delivers, for example. Viewers aged 55-to-64 are worth only $119 for every thousand, according to Nielsen Media Research.
The Harris Interactive study found that half of baby boomers say they tune out commercials that are clearly aimed at young people. An additional one-third said they’d go out of their way NOT to buy such a product.
This is entirely predictable. Obviously, if one targets shows and commericals to under-35s, the over-45s are going to be alienated. Given that the huge Baby Boom generation is well outside the target demographic, that means much lower ratings.
It’s not clear to me why that matter, though, if the aim is to sell things to the young. Indeed, it’s baffling to me to start with the premise that those over a certain age don’t matter and then get concerned that those over that age are unhappy.
Further, I’d argue that the conclusion is flawed:
With the continued carving of the television audience into smaller slices because of all the networks on the air, the chance for advertisers to reach particular niches increases, said Evan Shapiro, who had his own marketing firm and is now head of the Independent Film Channel. Shapiro, 37, doesn’t buy the idea that there’s nothing on TV for older viewers. “If you are a 50-year-old male or female, there is an enormous amount of television for you,” he said. “It’s just not on all the places that it used to be.”
Right. If one is still pulling down the ABC, NBC, and CBS signals via rabbit ears, then there is indeed very little appealing available. If you’ve got cable or satellite, though, there’s more programming aimed at older people than ever before.
In the old days, the three networks had to come up with shows that appealed to old and young, rich and poor, urban and rural, black and white, male and female alike to survive. There was generally one television in the household and three networks plus PBS plus an independent station or two on UHF. Everybody in the home watched the same show.
Now, there are dozens if not hundreds of channels to chose from. Those with satellite can literally watch nothing but fishing, hunting, shopping, nature, golf, Westerns, cooking, or whatever all day long. Advertisers can appeal to an incredibly targeted audience for a relatively small sum. It’s hard to see what the complaining is about.