Reality rates high with families

Nonfiction programming big with all age groups

As the broadcast nets began to focus almost exclusively on attracting young-adult viewers over the past decade, the number of primetime programs geared for the whole family decreased.

But there’s one genre that can still get mom, dad and the kids to plop down on the same couch while the tube is on: reality shows.

“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “Survivor” ushered in the trend of unscripted fare around the turn of the millennium, and it’s continued strong in the years since. It’s especially pronounced this season, where none of the top eight programs among kids 2-11 are comedies or dramas.

ABC’s “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” still going strong in its 16th season, derives 11.2% of its audience (1.07 million of its 9.5 million average aud) from kids 2-11, according to Nielsen. It leads the percentage pack in part because it airs in the early 7 o’clock hour of primetime on Sunday, which is otherwise occupied primarily by sports and newsmags.

TV’s hottest show among all viewers, Fox’s “American Idol,” is also very popular among youngsters. In fact, it draws two or three times most of the other top kiddie draws.

The Tuesday 8 o’clock edition of “Idol” pulls in an average of 3.5 million kids 2-11 (10.5% of its 33.6 million viewers overall) and its Wednesday edition, which airs mostly in the 9 o’clock hour, draws 3.1 million (or 9.4% of its overall aud of 33 million).

ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” draws a healthy 9.9% of its 14.4 million viewers from kids, while the vet “Survivor” still counts on youngsters for 8.1% of its 15.6 million viewers. Also, 6.5% of the 16.3 million viewers for NBC’s “Deal or No Deal” are kids, while both the performance and results editions of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” derive about 5.5% of their audience from the 2-11 crowd.

The comedies whose aud is most comprised of kids are, not surprisingly, Fox toon vets “The Simpsons” (10.9% of its 9 million viewers) and “Family Guy” (10% of its 8.4 million viewers).

No drama comes close, though, with Fox’s “Prison Break” (6.1%), NBC’s “Heroes” (5.5%) and CBS’ “Ghost Whisperer” (5.1%) the only ones to draw more than 5% of their auds from viewers under 12.

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