ABC, CBS and NBC are running neck and neck in the battle for viewers this season, but NBC can claim a clear edge in two categories crucial to the business of television.
The median household income of $51,400 among NBC viewers is the highest of any broadcaster, according to a new study by TN Media, a New York advertising firm. NBC is also touting research that shows that it is the network of choice among regular Internet users.
UPN, whose hike in ratings this year has been fueled largely by professional wrestling, has an audience with the lowest median income, $35,500, according to the report. The median income of ABC viewers is $48,200, compared with Fox’s $44,800, CBS’ $39,200 and the WB’s $40,400.
Seven of the eight network shows with the richest audience are on NBC, including “Frasier,” “Friends” and “West Wing.” The exception is Fox’s “Ally McBeal.”
In the more mundane measurement of average prime-time television viewers this season, ABC, CBS and NBC are separated by a mere 50,000 people for the distinction of most popular network. ABC, the network of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” has the narrow lead.
For years, NBC has focused so intently on the young demographic craved by advertisers that its executives effectively ignore people over age 49. While meeting with reporters recently, NBC West Coast President Scott Sassa unveiled statistics showing NBC has a 15% ratings advantage over second-place ABC among viewers age 18-49 who have access to the Internet.
The most popular television programs among Internet users are “Law & Order” and “West Wing.”
The explosion of “dot-com” advertising explains NBC’s interest in pulling out this statistic for the first time. Internet-related companies bought $132 million in TV advertising during all of 1998 and $277 million in just the first nine months of 1999, according to research firm Competitive Media Reporting.