Median Age Report: The Big 3 earn their AARP cards (and Fox isn’t too far behind)

Media analyst Steve Sternberg is out with his annual median age report — and when DVR usage is counted, the Big 3 nets have all now crossed the 50-year-old threshold. 

That’s right: While they chase the 18-49 demo, all three original broadcast nets attract a median age outside of that measurement. And Fox isn’t too far behind.

The networks have been creeping toward this milestone for years. CBS now sports a median age of 56, followed by ABC (52) and NBC (50). Even Fox is now inching closer to 50, clocking in at 46.

At least Fox and the CW (34) have held off the aging process, remaining the same as last year. CBS, ABC and NBC, on the other hand, have grown one year older (as its audience ages with them).

This isn’t a new phenomenon, of course. The broadcast networks have seen their median ages grow in recent years as younger auds find other means to catch their favorite shows, or flee to cable (or other pasttimes). And the broadcast networks long ago got out of programming to tykes. With kids 2-11 virtually non-existent in their audience makeup, it’s no surprise that the nets have aged.

Sternberg notes that he has been conducting this study since 1991, when CBS was the oldest net, at 45, followed by NBC (42), ABC (37) and Fox (29).

Sternberg also notes that the decrease in primetime comedy, which are usually the youngest-skewing shows on TV, have also contributed to the rise in median age. On the flip side, older-skewing procedural dramas now dominate in prime — helping age up all four major broadcasters. 

Reality series and gamers are also older-skewing. “Dancing with the Stars,” for example, has a median age close to 60.

Here is a network-by-network glance at the oldest and youngest-skewing series (not including secondary runs):


ABC — “Dancing with the Stars” results show (58) Scripted: “Castle” (55)

CBS — “60 Minutes” (61) Scripted: “The Good Wife” (58)

NBC — “Dateline Sunday” (58) Scripted: “Law & Order” (56)

Fox — “Human Target” and “Bones” (52)

The CW — “Smallville” (39)


ABC — “Scrubs” (38)

CBS — “How I Met Your Mother” (45)

NBC — “The Office” (35)

Fox — “Family Guy,” “American Dad” and “Cleveland Show” (30)

The CW — “Gossip Girl” (28)

Among cable networks, rural cabler RFD is oldest (over 65), followed by Fox News (65, actually aging down from 65-plus last year); CNN (63, up from 60); Hallmark (61, down from 63) and GSN (60, down from 62).

The youngest, of course, are kid-targeted: Nick Jr. (6), as well as Nicktoons, Cartoon Network, Disney XD and Nickelodeon (11).

Among the broad-based cable nets, USA is acting so much like a broadcast network that its median age (50, without DVR use) is like a broadcast net too (making it even older than NBC, which is 49 without DVR use). TNT clocks a median age of 47, while TBS is at 36. AMC is at its youngest in years (49), while FX is at 38. 

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