September 22, 2011

THE SKED: Inside the 18-49 Demographic

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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>At ShowBuzzDaily we focus mainly on ratings for Adults 18-49, the demographic advertisers are most interested in buying.  But inside that broad group are many important sub-groups, usually broken up into women and men, younger and older (18-34 versus 35-49).  These subgroups (along with the older 50+ category) determine how successful a show will be.  It is important to keep in mind that there are many paths to ratings success — for example, either dominating one sub-group or doing fairly well across all groups.  We thought we would take a look at the competitive 9 pm hour on Wednesday to see exactly how the audience breaks out. 

9.21.2011          Rating      Demographic Shares
Wed 9-10 pm         Adult  Women Women  Men   Men  Adult
                    18-49  18-34 35-49 18-34 35-49  50+
ABC  Modern Family   6.0     17    16    14    14    10
FOX  The X Factor    4.4     13    13     9    11    10
CBS  Criminal Minds  4.1      9    15     7    10    15
NBC  Harry’s Law     1.2      3     5     1     3    10
CW   Next Top Model  0.7      4     3     1     1     1

How to read: Modern Family achieved a 6.0 rating with Adults 18-49 (6% of all people aged 18-49 watched the ABC comedy).  Among Women 18-34, 17% of that group that was watching TV at 9 pm were tuned to ABC, while 13% were tuned to The X Factor on FOX.

Click “read more” for analysis by network.

ABC won the hour by doing well with everyone.  It won the two female groups in the 18-49 demo (even though it had substantial competition in the Women 35-49 segment) and handily won the two male groups.  This is especially important because men don’t watch much television and they watch very little network TV compared to women.  So the fact that Modern Family‘s 6 demo in the hour is filled with young men is especially attractive to Madison Avenue.

In contrast, FOX built its second place finish on the backs of women 18-34 and 35-49, not a big surprise for a reality competition show.  The difference between a solid number and a terrific number for The X Factor would have been more male appeal.

CBS did what it often does: focuses on women 35-49, the 18-49 sub-group most likely to watch television each night.  Secondarily, Criminal Minds won the 50+ race (the group that watches the most TV).  While the 50+ viewers don’t count in the 18-49 tally, they inflate the delivery of total viewers (ages 2+) and allow CBS to claim the title of “most watched network”.

While NBC was fairly competitive in the 50+ category, Harry’s Law did CW-like numbers with young men and young women.  Not an attractive proposition to an advertiser.  

Available in a few days are even more important numbers: viewing in high-income or high-education homes.  Traditionally, Modern Family does very well with viewers in homes with incomes over $100,000 per year.  Again, the ABC comedy’s 6 demo rating is filled with young men and with upper income viewers (if last year’s patterns hold).  All of that means an even bigger premium for the ABC advertising sales department. 

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."