×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Me-TV taps into boomer base

Classic TV channel courts 35-to-64 demo

If the usual media mantra is along the lines of “Out with the old, in with the new,” a few emerging bastions are daring to embrace the past.

Meet — or re-meet — the Me-TV generation.

The Me-TV network (which stands for “Memorable Entertainment,” which sounds better than “Old Fart TV”) started life in 2005 as a low-power TV station in Chicago, owned by Weigel Broadcasting. It has spread across the U.S. — currently reaching just over 80% of homes — via digital subchannels and affiliation agreements, totaling 132 stations.

Me’s lineup feels like stumbling through a time warp, watching an independent station in the 1970s or ’80s. There are reruns of “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “MASH,” “Gunsmoke” and “Bonanza,” as well as the original “Star Trek” and “Hawaii Five-0.” The shows even carry a reduced commercial load so episodes don’t have to be gutted the way they sometimes are for syndication, since “Dick Van Dyke” episodes ran more than 26 minutes per half-hour.

“We’re treating the programming with respect,” said Neal Sabin, Weigel’s president of content and networks, who cited baby boomers age 35-64 — adding a full decade to TV’s accepted ad currency — as a sales target.

“Everyone’s ignoring baby boomers, and there are advertisers who are smart and going after them,” Sabin noted. “It’s really that core baby boomer who loves this stuff.”

Me’s rollout has invaded Southern California — home to many of those who actually made these shows — thanks to an agreement with a TV station in far-away Bishop, which reaches the Los Angeles market; and as a subchannel (those digital add-ons with numbers like 56.3) on KDOC in Orange County. DirecTV began carrying the former in April, and Time Warner Cable will add the channel in October.

Everything about Me flies in the face of youth-worshipping demographic and media trends — almost like little blades of grass poking out of pavement.

Sabin insists the programming is “very comfortable to watch,” a sort of video balm for trying times. He says the company spent “tens of millions of dollars” in meticulously assembling its library (MGM is a partner), rejecting programs that might be old but aren’t genuine classics.

“We didn’t want to do it with tertiary product,” he said. “I think ‘classic’ is one of the most overused words in the dictionary.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, a majority of advertising is of the direct-response variety, which isn’t heavily ratings or demo-dependent but represents the bottom-feeders in the advertising pool. The sponsors don’t do much to dispel the retirement village perception, with a random sampling finding ads for life insurance, arthritis sufferers and a testosterone supplement to help guys feel, er, younger.

As Me grows, the network is seeking to be more nimble — assembling tributes, for example, when veteran stars die, as channels like Turner Classic Movies and TV Land do. And while it hardly has this niche to itself, with even TV Land chasing younger demos with original programming, there is a sense of swimming against the tides.

Among the financial challenges Me faces is higher residual payments for broadcast reruns compared to cable, which does seem a little ridiculous given how the channel is distributed. Certain acquisitions have been nixed, Sabin said, because of such concerns.

Me is currently negotiating for national ratings, and is cleverly citing the composition of its audience to court political advertising in the current election year — as well as anecdotal evidence of viewer appreciation and engagement, which extends to those associated with the shows.

“It’s always nice for somebody to support your product more than just putting it on the air,” said attorney Steve Gardner, whose 102-year-old father, Arthur, produced “The Rifleman” and “The Big Valley,” both Me staples.

Media bias toward youth being what it is, nobody’s likely to get rich off a channel I initially encountered in an old-fashioned barber shop, where the clientele leans toward the eligible-for-Social Security demo.

Yet based on its formula, Sabin said, “Our model is such that … we can have a successful business and serve an audience this way.”

That includes fans of these shows as well as their creators, who, happily, needn’t wait around for Emmy memorial segments to see someone appreciate their work.

More TV

  • MAKING IT -- Season: 1 --

    TV News Roundup: NBC Announces 'Making It' Season 2 Premiere Date

    In today’s TV news roundup, NBC announced the “Making It” Season 2 premiere date and HBO Max greenlit a new docuseries from Brad Goreski and Gary Janetti. DATES Hosts Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman will return with the second season of “Making It” on NBC Dec. 2. After the show’s holiday season premiere, the show [...]

  • Luis Fonsi Erika Ender Latin Grammys

    The Second Latin Explosion: How 'Despacito' Ushered in a New Generation of Stars

    Music is an ever-evolving art, and for the Latin Recording Academy, that’s meant riding multiple waves of attention. The most recent arrived with the stratospheric success of “Despacito,” which kicked off a second Latin Explosion with full force in 2017. The Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee hit, later featuring verses by Justin Bieber, made Latin [...]

  • TV Review: 'Catherine the Great' Starring

    TV Review: 'Catherine the Great' Starring Helen Mirren

    For some, “Dame Helen Mirren playing the Catherine the Great” is all the convincing they’ll need to watch this new biographical limited series, which is perfectly understandable. The casting of Mirren in the role, which follows the Russian empress in the embattled latter years of her life, is a smart choice that proves its worth [...]

  • Ricky Martin Celia Cruz Gloria Estefan

    From Idea to Legacy: Latin Grammy Awards Mark 20 Years of Global Recognition

    The idea of creating a separate organization to honor the diversity of Latin music was a discussion that took place for years before it actually happened, but an event driven by one of pop music’s most important crossover artists solidified it. During the 41st Grammy Awards ceremony, a young Ricky Martin was scheduled to perform [...]

  • Science Fair

    Disney Plus Fleshes Out Nonfiction Slate, Including 'Howard,' 'Science Fair,' Mickey Mouse Docu

    Disney Plus further fleshed out its nonfiction content slate at an International Documentary Association showcase event Friday, as the streamer, preparing for its Nov. 12 launch, continues to flesh out its programming strategy. Among the announcements: The streamer has acquired the global distribution rights to “Howard,” the Don Hahn-directed documentary about “Aladdin” and “Beauty and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content