`Heroes,' `Office' lowers age of NBC's audience

Thanks to hot rookie “Heroes,” NBC has stopped the ratings bleeding this season. But the drama has also helped the net accomplished its other primary goal: getting younger.

In recent years, programs such as “Dateline” and the “Law & Order” franchise, which at times have accounted for more than one-third of NBC’s schedule, made the net older-skewing. That, in turn, made it more difficult for the net to promote younger, edgier new shows on its own air.

But Nielsen data through March 11 shows that the Peacock’s median age for all primetime programs — the age at which half of it audience is younger, and half older — is 47.7, down from 49.4 a year ago at this time. (Number is almost identical if you toss out its fourth-quarter primetime NFL package).

By comparison, CBS has a median age of 51.8 (on par with last year’s 51.7), ABC is up slightly to 46.7 (from 46.4), Fox is up about two years (to 42.7 from 40.8), while new net CW comes in at 32.9 (slightly older than UPN and younger than the WB of a year ago).

As it looks to the future, “Heroes” (median age: 39) figures to be a cornerstone program, allowing the net a great opportunity next fall to find an appropriate lead-out that can also appeal to 20-and 30-somethings. It’s the youngest-skewing drama on the Big Four, slightly below Fox’s “Prison Break” (39.8).

Net also has a young group of comedies, including “The Office” (36.0) and rookie “30 Rock” (40.0), while “Friday Night Lights” (45.1), why not all that young, is below the network’s average.

NBC may not want to overload on gameshow “Deal or No Deal,” however, as its median age on Monday (50.9) is now outside the net’s target 18-49 demo.

Some other median-age nuggets:

  • Although “Dancing With the Stars” (52.9) lifts ABC’s median age, its top scripted shows — “Grey’s Anatomy” (43.6), “Desperate Housewives” (44.3) and “Lost” (42.3) — all skew young, especially for dramas.

  • The oldest-skewing scripted series on the broadcast nets is “NCIS” on CBS (55.6), while the youngest is “One Tree Hill” on CW (26.2).

  • Though CBS is the oldest broadcaster, there are 17 cable nets that skew older in primetime, led by the creaky Fox News Channel (66.5) and the Hallmark Channel (63.0)
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