By Alan Pergament
The word demographic is more routinely abbreviated to demo, which is fitting since some critics feel it is as foul as any four-letter word.
The demo values youth and financial potential over experience and deeper pockets today.
Before I bore you with some statistics (I promise there won’t be that many), let me tell you a demographic story that I heard two or three decades ago when an advertising executive spoke to a group of television critics in Los Angeles.
I recall the meeting was by a swimming pool, but I could be wrong. Maybe it is just because I long to be by a swimming pool after experiencing this unending winter.
The guy – who wasn’t anything like Don Draper of “Mad Men” - proceeded to say that Fox chases the younger demo, ABC was more focused on women age 18 through 49 and NBC was focused on the 18 through 49 demographic as well. Then he added, “The average age of a CBS viewer is dead.”
And we all laughed.
What he meant by that was the average CBS viewer at the time – it began to change with the success of “Survivor” – was dead to advertisers because they typically were so old they weren’t even in the age 25-54 demographic and pretty much had made up their minds about what beer to drink, what soft
drink to drink, what detergent to buy and what car floated their boat.
Love them or hate them, demos rule TV because it is a business out to make money.
As a rule, the broadcast networks seek viewers age 18 through 49 and local TV affiliates like Channel 2, Channel 4, Channel 7 and Channel 29 seek viewers age 25-54.
This is a long prelude to explaining that the local news demos have come in. And the local winner is Channel 2, and by a much bigger margin over Channel 4 than it had in the household ratings.
Channel 2 wins every newscast it competes with Channel 4 and Channel 7 in the age 18 through 49 demographic except for the 11 p.m. news and it wins every newscast in the age 25 through 54 demo except at 5 a.m. and 11 p.m.
Channel 2’s margin at 6 p.m. is much larger percentage-wise in the demos than it is in the household ratings. And while Channel 4 dominates the household ratings at 11 p.m., Channel 2 is within a half of a point in the age 25-54 demo and within a tenth of a point in the age 18-49 demo. Channel 4 wins at 11 p.m. in both categories by virtue of its dominance in the age 35-64 demo, which includes a lot of people at the upper levels of the demo who are dead to advertisers.
I hope no one in the upper demo takes offense at that statement because I feel your pain. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m in the upper levels of the demo myself and wish they didn’t matter as much as they do.
Their importance is especially painful for anyone who grew up in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when there were only three or four TV choices at night and one TV set in the household.
That meant parents determined what you watched, which usually resulted in family-friendly content.
Nowadays, younger adults determine what their parents can see and whether the good stuff that appeals to older adults like “The Good Wife” can survive.
It doesn’t seem fair. But that’s business.
Nick Magnini, the general manager of WUTV and WNYO, confirmed his station is paying Channel 2 a larger fee to produce the 10 p.m. newscast seven days a week on Fox affiliate WUTV starting April 8 and to rerun Channel 2's 6 a.m. "Daybreak" at 7 a.m. on WNYO.
"We negoiated and increased the fee because they are providing more product," said Magnini.
The move of the 10 p.m. newscast to WUTV should be a game-changer for Channel 2, which will have a much stronger lead-in from Fox than Channel 4's 10 O'Clock News on sister station WNLO-TV receives from CW prime time programs.
Magnini added he is excited about the move of the 10 p.m. newscast to WUTV, the Fox affiliate that will provide a stronger-lead in than WNYO, especially on nights that "American Idol" and "The Following" air.
"WUTV will win with the 10 just from the lead-in from Fox," predicted Magnini. "Even Fox's worse night is better than the CW's best night."
That's true. WNYO's rerun programming even gives Channel 2 a stronger lead-in than the CW gives Channel 4 News on WNLO on many nights.
One understands Magnini's optimism, but this market usually is slow to change viewing habits and many viewers are in the habit of watching Channel 4's 10 p.m. newscast despite the weak lead-in it gets from CW prime time programming.