Skip to comments.Study says boomers don't like what's on TV
Posted on 11/19/2006 8:53:37 PM PST by Snickering Hound
NEW YORK Americans born between 1946 and 1964 are accustomed to being catered to, but that's not the case with much of television today. Now there's some new evidence that they're finding this mighty irritating.
A study conducted by Harris Interactive suggests that the television industry's obsession with youth is backfiring.
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 amount of people dissatisfied with television overall was a pretty big eye-opening thing for us," said Larry Jones, president of the TV Land cable network, which commissioned the study.
To a certain extent, the generation that decades ago warned against trusting people over 30 can blame itself for the predicament. The TV industry's slavish devotion to ratings within the 18-to-49-year-old demographic started when most baby boomers fit into that group.
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.
That's why ABC and NBC conduct all of their business with advertisers in the 18-to-49 demo. From a financial standpoint, if you're 50 or over, you mean nothing to those networks' executives. For Fox, the CW, MTV, BET and countless other networks, even 40 is too old.
The peak year for births within the baby boom, Jones noted, was 1957 meaning all those people are turning 49 this year.
Much of the television industry isn't aging with them.
"They've just never changed or haven't realized that the population has moved on," said Randy Berkowitz, vice president of research for Combe Inc., which makes health products and beauty aids.
Berkowitz believes that "people are just not in tune with TV because they can't relate to it anymore."
Jones, who's 46, said he wants to come home at night and see an entertainment program that appeals to his sensibilities. Some people may find Paris Hilton funny on "The Simple Life," for example not him.
To a surprising extent, advertising is also alienating. 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.
"I'm not saying that every show, every network should reshape, but that's an awfully high level of dissatisfaction among the largest generation group of all time," said Ken Dychtwald, a psychologist who worked with Harris Interactive on the study. (Harris conducted an online survey of 4,220 adults between April 28-May 15 this year, with a sampling error of plus or minus 1.5 percent).
Some advertisers have responded to the aging population. Financial services firms, for example, see many potential customers advancing toward retirement. Two decades ago drug companies didn't advertise on TV; now you could fill a medicine cabinet with all the products hawked on the evening news.
But these were cases where the companies making these products saw the opportunity, not necessarily the TV industry, Berkowitz said.
TV Land's Jones is already using the survey in his business. The results have convinced him that, more than ever, his network of mostly classic TV shows should be boomer-centric, he said. He also comes armed with the survey when he meets with the Madison Avenue types who buy advertising time.
One statistic he's sure to cite: The survey found 51 percent of the postwar generation describe themselves as "open to new ideas." Meanwhile, only 12 percent of young adults think the older folks feel that way.
Why does that matter? Jones said the average media buyer or planner is under 30. Many are undoubtedly hired for their know-how in appealing to a specific generation, and it isn't the baby boomers.
"There is this huge perception versus reality situation in the marketplace," he said.
Jones is pushing the idea of a "middlescence," about 40-to-59-year-olds who don't feel young anymore but don't feel old, and have plenty of discretionary income.
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."
Still, Shapiro said he senses that marketers are slowly waking up to the potential in older TV viewers.
But by the time it happens, the children of the baby boomers will be the focus, making their parents even more irrelevant in television's eyes, he said.
The television executives need to do something different if they expect to pry some of that bountiful discretionary income out of my hands and into the coffers of their advertisers. However, the heirs to my estate hope they continue to ignore me and drive me away to alternative, non-commercial forms of entertainment. :-)
Sitcoms are horrible. There used to be some good ones, but now it's stupid people saying stupid things that nobody would ever say and doing things that no one would ever do. The example I always point to is the one episode of NewsRadio I watched. The characters go to lunch at a Chuck E. Cheese-style restaurant, and one of them says, "Where is our waiter? I haven't seen him in a while." Suddenly, the guy rises up from under the balls in the ball pool, smoking. "Oh, I was on break." Okay. I'm not an All in the Family fan, but you would never have seen that BS there.
Jack has been on that boat to China for a long time.
I did a survey on one about a month ago. The name of the half hour sitcom was, "Dads" & just going on the name, what would you expect to see in the show?
I've never seen it put that eloquently!
It's about people from different parts of the world who have developed super powers and are slowly coming together to stop a nuclear holocaust. One of the heroes--the flying guy--is Natalie Maines's husband. But, don't let that stop you. :)
Warning: it's very violent and gory.
Yeah the shows have young people but we get equal time during comercials. Ensure, gotta go medicine, funeral and life insurance planning, skin care, eye surgeries, sexual dysfuntion medication, assisted living homes .... Commercial used to be entertaining. Now they are just depressing.
I wouldn't mind trying House or 24, but I'd have to get the DVDs first. I hate to come in in the middle.
Hey dad! Good to see you! :)
We boomers are the ones with the money. It's our cohort that's buying the Lexuses. No point in advertising cars, cruises, and other expensive goodies to people who are too young to have the disposable income to buy them.
I've enjoyed Lost this season, though I know it's gotten a mixed reaction. Veronica Mars started out as VM Lite, but there have been some great episodes. The most recent one was really good. Don't know if you know, but it's finally been picked up for the rest of the season. They wanted an additional nine episodes, but only got seven more. I don't mind being two shy, but I hope it isn't a sign that a fourth season is off the table.
Wow sage, your age is showing! ;)
I really couldn't guess. Not anymore.
My favorite movie of all time is "The Long Hot Summer" with Don Johnson and Jason Robards.
I would sincerely doubt it gets to a 4th season, regardless. The ratings have never been stellar, and only a small-but-loyal fanbase has kept it afloat for a third season. Plus, it doesn't seem to have the same spark that it did when Veronica was at Neptune High. Same with Smallville...this is a relatively weak season, if you ask me. They never should have killed off Jonathan Kent.
Really? I can't recall even seeing any Orbitz commercials, although I've used them for flights. How are they racist?