Primetime Bests the Pundits

Brian Lowry sees all of the post-election pontificating about demographics (Latinos, women, LGBT) as nothing new — if you are in the TV business.

He writes, “The media, obviously, approach demographic trends with different
priorities than do political campaigns — eager to transform them into
triumphs in terms of profit, not votes.

“The advertisers dictating the need to reach younger demographics,
however, are forward-looking. Part of their rationale for emphasizing
adults under 50 hinges on trying to hook potential customers early,
gaining their loyalty for years to come.

“Political pundits, by contrast, frequently seem to be thinking no
further ahead than the next election, only then — once the outcome
is known — pivoting to turn their attention to the following
campaign. In addition, the fact that older and white Americans generally
vote in higher percentages than younger and minority groups has
afforded them disproportionate clout at the ballot box, even as the
influence they exercise through TV’s ratings box has dwindled.”

As he points out, in 1971, CBS programmer Fred Silverman cancelled all of the network’s rural sitcoms, even ones in the top ten, in favor of more sophisticated shows that appealed to younger, more urban audiences. “All in the Family” led the so-called “rural purge.” This urban vs. rural divide is not new to campaigns, it is just that it was so apparent in 2012, and this was a cycle in which one campaign mastered the method of reaching those voters, and turning them out, more than any other before.

Still perplexing, though, is how the Romneys could have said that “Modern Family” is their favorite TV show yet apparently didn’t get how the show reflected changing demographics.


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