Don’t be surprised if Fox suddenly buys a Ferrari and acquires a hot young girlfriend: The once-youthful network has officially hit middle age.
Fox’s median age passed the 40-year-old threshold for the first time last season, according to a new study from Magna Global USA’s Steve Sternberg. The net, which boasted a median age of 35 just four years ago, aged up to 42 last year.
That still makes Fox the youngest of the Big Four — although the gap is narrowing.
Fox doesn’t have much to worry about, however, as its median age is still in check with the national population, and reflects a broadening out of its schedule. Shows like “24,” “House” and even “American Idol” reach a wider age range than the net’s shows did even a few years ago — and have helped lead the net to the No. 1 spot in adults 18-49.
The CW is by far TV’s youngest broadcast net, with a median age of just 32. That’s two years younger than the median age of UPN and the WB, the two nets it replaced last season.
CBS, dogged by a reputation as TV’s oldest-skewing broadcaster, still has the oldest overall aud with a median age of 53. Still, Sternberg notes that the Eye’s percentage of viewers over age 65 is down from five years ago, making it less gray overall.
ABC, however, is getting older — in part because it’s become a more successful net overall in the past few years. Its median age of 48 is up from 44 five years ago, thanks to older-skewing skeins such as “Dancing With the Stars” and “Boston Legal” and the expected aging of hits such as “Desperate Housewives.” Given how well ABC does among affluent viewers with those same shows, however, it’s unlikely anybody at the Mouse House-owned net is complaining about a few median age numbers.
Then there’s NBC. Its median age is now 49, once again making it the second oldest-skewing broadcast net. The loss of young-adult magnets such as “Friends” and an over-reliance on “Law & Order” skeins and “Dateline” is behind the older skew.
The CW’s “One Tree Hill,” with a median age of 26, was the youngest-skewing show on the broadcast webs, while CBS’ “60 Minutes” was the oldest with a median age of 60.
And on the cable front, preschool channel Noggin’s daytime slate repped the youngest median age — 6 — while GSN’s daytime schedule and Fox News Channel’s daytime and primetime slates were the oldest, all averaging a median age of over 65.
That could very well signify that onetime upstart Fox News is firmly part of the establishment. By contrast, CNN has aged down, with a median age of 62 in primetime (thanks, Anderson Cooper!).