Networks Debate Age Groups' Value to Advertisers
Nielsen data show that 51 percent of the sought-after "young affluent audience" -- 18- to 34-year-olds living in households that make more than $75,000 per year -- are dependent on someone else's money.
The demographic gets poorer as it gets younger, said one advertising buyer.
"The 18-to-24 group doesn't have a lot of discretionary income," said Shari Ann Brill, a media buyer for Carat USA. "They're in school, so [Moonves] does have a point. But that younger [group] is very good for movies and fast food [advertising], though, yes, to a certain extent, it is their parents' money."
NBC, which has seen its lead in 18- to 49-year-old viewers shrink to gains by CBS and Fox, fights back with Nielsen data of its own, showing that NBC still wins both 18-to-49 and 25-to-54 audiences if CBS's 90 million Super Bowl viewers and its other prime-time sports audiences are factored out. Excluding sports, Fox is a close third in younger viewers, with ABC lagging in fourth. Neither network is close to NBC and CBS in the 25-to-54 age group.
During Monday's NBC presentation, NBC Universal Television Group president Jeff Zucker predicted that "Friends" spinoff "Joey" would help the network retain its lead among younger viewers, which he touted as highly valuable.
NBC's big footprint in the 18-to-49 demographic is Donald Trump's "The Apprentice," which Zucker said solidified the hold on young viewers the network feared would be lost with the exit of "Friends."
"We listen to our customers, and they consistently tell us that the 18-to-49 viewers are the most valued audience in television," Randel A. Falco, NBC Universal Television Networks Group president, said in an interview yesterday. "NBC can deliver that demographic better than any network."
Advertisers in search of youth don't always act expectedly. Suppose "Show A" has 5 million viewers ages 18-49 and 1 million 50 and older, for a total of 6 million viewers. "Show B" also has 5 million 18- to 49-year-old viewers but 5 million who are 50 and older, for a total of 10 million viewers.
Common sense would suggest that advertisers should pick "Show B," which delivers the younger audience plus 5 million bonus viewers. But they do not. They pick "Show A" -- and pay more for it -- because a greater percentage of the show's total viewership is younger, said David Poltrack, vice president for research at CBS and UPN, its sister network. This is where NBC has long bested CBS, which always has had more total viewers than NBC.
Consider Fox's "The Simpsons" versus CBS's "Without a Trace." According to Nielsen's most recent ratings, "The Simpsons" ranks 28th among 18- to 49-year-olds. "Without a Trace" ranks 20th in the same age group. Yet, "The Simpsons" demands $278,000 for a 30-second commercial, according to Nielsen's pricing survey, and "Without a Trace" gets only $173,000.
"It's an illogical aspect of the marketplace caused by a lot of people chasing these younger-skewing shows," Poltrack said.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company