Other Free Encyclopedias » Medicine Encyclopedia » Aging Healthy - Part 2 » Images of Aging - Geezer Bashing, Invisible Elders, "old Warhorses" In U.s. Newsrooms, Advertising Rates Trump Ratings

Images of Aging - Advertising Rates Trump Ratings

age viewers abc grossman salend

What neither the New York Times nor the Wall Street Journal article explained is that attracting older viewers loses money—even if the older audience for a show is significantly larger than that of a competing show drawing younger viewers. For example, Lawrence K. Grossman, former president of both NBC News and PBS, wrote "Newscasts tend to attract older audiences, a serious deficiency in an industry dedicated to the single-minded pursuit of the young adults advertisers prize most. TV time buyers pay $23.54 per thousand viewers to reach 18 to 35 year olds and only $9.57 per thousand for those over the age of 35, according to industry sources." (Grossman).

Grossman's article also contradicts Maynard's assertion that the interests of older new consumers are already fulfilled in current programming. According to Grossman, "to lower their audience's age level and raise profitability, TV news producers, national and local alike, keep lightening the content of their newscasts, filling them with titillating tabloid items about crime, celebrities, and gossip, while playing down serious reporting about government, international affairs, and major public issues, whose appeal is thought to be confined mainly to older viewers." Grossman goes on to admit, "When I ran NBC News. . .I was as guilty of the age myopia as anyone."

The connection between advertising and what audiences see of older people, if they see them at all, was examined by Anna Nolan Rahman and Elyse Salend when they conducted media research during the early and mid-1990s. In an article for the American Society on Aging newspaper, Aging Today (January-February 1995, page 11), they explained that highly successful programs featuring older actors, such as CBS's "Murder She Wrote" with Angela Lansbury, earned lower advertising revenue per minute than its more youth-attracting rival, "Lois and Clark," even though "Murder She Wrote" was rated number sixteen among all television shows in the May 1995 "sweeps" (twice-yearly periods when ratings are used to adjust ad rates), and "Lois and Clark," a romantic Superman adventure series, landed in the ninety-eighth spot. The same demographic bias, according to Rahman and Salend, causes "most of the major-market stations in the syndication arena" to turn down opportunities to replay even highly successful programs appealing to mature viewers.

Rahman and Salend traced "a key reason" for the television industry's dogged pursuit of younger audiences to a development in the early 1950s. They explained that "when ABC was launched, the fledgling network, concentrated mostly in urban areas, had difficulty attracting older viewers, who were tuned to CBS and NBC. ABC was popular, however, among 18-to-34 year olds. Desperate for a sales hook, ABC decided to turn what was then considered a negative into a positive. Rahman and Salend quote Arnold Becker, who worked at ABC in its early years and was later vice president of Entertainment Research at CBS, as saying that ABC linked the young-adult market with adults 35 to 49 and "started singing the praises of the 18-to-49-year-old group." Becker told them that the ABC pitch used such phrases as, "Get them to buy when they're young, you'll get them for life." Or, "The young will try new things," and the refrain, "The old are set in their ways." Becker added that these age-based statements are "baloney . . . they're not true."

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