We have said it before, and we will say it again. Our Outposters are a wise bunch. In between arguing about the next James Bond and being repulsed by nonsensical Hollywood decisions, they drop nuggets of insight that prove scarily prescient. Just three days ago we expressed shock and surprise at the news that television network The CW, the youth and young adult orientated organisation, actually had an average viewer age of 58 years old.
“But wait!” said a number of Outposter in Disqus. This is no surprise at all as only old people watch network television anymore. Well, that would explain why every other advert on US network television is for medication. Could this be true? Is network TV entirely supported by old farts in their homes making pain med decisions in the (way too frequent) breaks in Riverdale?
Well, it turns out that yes, this is the case. A follow-up piece in Variety detailed conversations with ratings measurement company Nielsen. Streaming platforms aren’t included in the stats so those who have cut the chord don’t figure in the viewing stats.
According to the Live +7 total viewers data, the demographics are truly shocking. The CW isn’t the broadcast network with the youngest audience. That is FOX at 56.2 years old.
Next up is NBC at 61.3, ABC at 62.2 and finally CBS at 63.3.
We have known for years that millennial and Gen Z viewers were turning away from television in droves, firstly via streaming services and then for YouTube and TikTok entertainment. Their low attention spans and instant gratification requirements bear this out. Gen X (that’s quite a few of us, we guess?) straddle the divide, much like we are the generation that still remembers a time before the internet as well as reaching adulthood in the digital age.
What this does show is a very concerning evolutionary cul-de-sac for network television. It’s audience is growing older and withering away while it is simply not being replaced in the funnel as young ‘ins simply make different viewing choices. The business model will reach a critical event horizon where eyeballs no longer justify add spend so revenue streams evaporate.
So is this it? Are we witnessing the death of network television and it’s going to happen in our lifetimes?