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Original Series Helped CNN Draw Younger Primetime Audience in 2014

As CNN continues to experiment with ways to boost its primetime ratings, the net has accomplished one objective: getting younger.

According to Nielsen data for 2014 released Tuesday, the median age of an average CNN viewer during primetime fell to 58 from 60 in 2013 — matching 2008 as the network’s youngest-skewing year since at least 1992. At the same time, Fox News Channel held steady at a median age of 68 and MSNBC skewed slightly older this year (61 vs. 60 last year).

CNN had skewed older in primetime than both MSNBC and Fox News until 2005, and this marks the first time that the Turner network is younger than both of its rivals.

Given the aging population of television viewers, any decline in median age is noteworthy. And of course, it could reap dividends to CNN when selling ad time, which is based primarily on viewership among those in the key news demo of 25 and 54.

Key to the declining median age in primetime for CNN has been its increased emphasis on original series, including “This is Life with Lisa Ling,” Mike Rowe’s “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” (pictured), “The Hunt with John Walsh” and “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.”

These shows often tend to be more DVR-friendly than other news programming, helping CNN gain on its rivals in “live plus-7” ratings that include time-shifting done within a week of a telecast.

The median ages of the three cable news networks are more closely bunched in total-day figures. Here, MSNBC (60) is slightly younger-skewing than CNN (61), with Fox News at 66.

Nielsen next week will release year-end cable news ratings, which will show Fox News once again beating the combined total-viewers averages of CNN and MSNBC in both primetime and total-day.

In an overall down cycle for cable news, CNN’s overall primetime audience for the year is trending at an all-time low, while Fox News is drawing its smallest total-demo audience in 13 years and MSNBC is at its lowest primetime demo delivery in eight years.

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