CBS research chief says 18-49 demographic is not be-all end-all

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CBS may be doing well in the coveted adults 18-49 demographic, but that doesn’t mean it is happy that many media outlets keep score by only looking at how shows are doing with viewers in that age group. 

“I cannot tell you how much frustration I experience every time I read one of your articles citing only adult 18-49 ratings, and characterizing this demo as the ‘only audience advertisers care about’ or ‘the audience advertisers care the most about,’” said CBS Chief Research Officer David Poltrack.

Citing Nielsen data that shows the percentage of adults 18-49 has fallen from 62% a decade ago to 55% today, Poltrack said ratings for that demographic will decline as well. The reason is that there will be fewer new additions to that age range in the years ahead and typically younger viewers watch less television.

“If heavier viewing 49-year-olds are moving out of the demo and lighter viewing 18-year-olds are moving in each year, the average viewing level within the demo will go down, even though no one has changed their personal viewing activity,” Poltrack said. 


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Furthermore, while many advertisers do focus on younger viewers out of a belief that they are more susceptible to the idea of changing brands, Poltrack added that there are some negatives that come with that group as well.

“These younger viewers that make up more of the 18-49 segment each year are largely still living with their parents. That trend is also increasing. This makes them of limited interest to a substantial number of advertisers,” Poltrack said.

On the subject of the ability of social media as an effective tool to drive television viewing, Poltrack said that while Twitter and other platforms certainly increase awareness, there is sometimes a disconnect between the level of conversation on Twitter compared to actual television ratings.


That appeared to be the case with the Syfy movie “Sharknado” that generated a huge amount of Twitter activity that did not translate into massive ratings. 


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