No Easy Definitions for This Generation

Feb 17, 2008  •  Post A Comment

It is the baby boomer demographic—those born between 1946 and 1964—that makes up what has come to be known as the TV generation. As those viewers age, television executives around the dial, both network and cable, are striving to find ways to reach this lucrative, affluent group. Overall, the baby boomer generation is not easy to pigeonhole. Variety, it would seem, is the common denominator in what appeals to and engages boomers.
“We try to reach all age groups with all our programs. We go after adults 18-54 and this covers all the key adult demos, including the adults 25-54,” said John Miller, chief marketing officer at NBC Universal Television Group and president of the NBC Agency. “We’re very interested in reaching the older baby boomers because that’s a way to build circulation, word of mouth and buzz … and we find that, with 50 being the new 40, there is great overlap with the younger and older audiences. Ours is a large and young-thinking audience. As well, if an older baby boomer loves one of our shows and gets his or her kids, friends and co-workers interested in the show, that helps our business.”
Research shows “Heroes” is the top NBC show in terms of engaging baby boomers. But there are other NBC shows that reach boomers. “The shows that might have stronger appeal to viewers in their 40s and 50s would probably be some of our unscripted shows like ‘Deal or No Deal,’ our news programs like ‘Dateline,’ our crime dramas like the ‘Law & Order’ franchise and our drama series ‘Medium,’” Mr. Miller said.
TV Land is a major destination for all strata of baby boomers because they all tend to enjoy classic TV. Favorite series like “I Love Lucy,” “M*A*S*H” and “The Andy Griffith Show” are regularly rotated with other well-loved programs from the past.
Recently, though, TV Land has added boomer-oriented original programming to its schedule. “It’s really a mix. What we’re finding is that there isn’t one thing. You can’t put this group of people in a box. What’s working really nicely for us is a mix of programming,” said Jaclyn Cohen, senior VP of programming and acquisitions for TV Land.
“Classic TV on TV Land is part of our heritage, our pedigree, and we’ll continue to deliver that, but we’re also becoming more contemporary. We’ve launched ‘Just Shoot Me’ recently; we also have ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’ and movies. We have been airing movies on Friday nights that have been bringing new viewers to our network that never came to TV Land before, and they’re staying and they’re sampling,” Ms. Cohen added.
On TVLand.com, the network’s Web site, the original movie trailers from those Friday night films are available via Web video. “We’re very pleased with the way it’s all going Friday nights at 10, and we’re building a Saturday afternoon block. Like TV series, movies have a fan base and following, so it’s a title-by-title selection that we are looking for, usually from the ’70s and ’80s. Some are date-night movies. We’re choosing more comedies,” Ms. Cohen said. “Viewers are really responding to them. When we aired ‘The Jerk’ it was our highest-rated movie so far. ‘Fletch,’ ‘In the Line of Fire’ and ‘Pleasantville’ rated very high for us. It’s about great quality movies for us.”
“TV Land sees a huge opportunity to cater to the entertainment needs of boomers with original programming that reflects the values and life stage they currently occupy, not their literal age,” said Larry W. Jones, president of the cable channel. “New originals like ‘High School Reunion,’ which brings together classmates 20 years after graduation, and ‘She’s Got the Look,’ which celebrates beauty and maturity, will certainly resonate with the boomers who enjoy seeing people they can relate to and identify with on television.”
It’s not just content that engages baby boomers. Convenience and comfort matter, too, and that means making use of technology.
“Everyone uses new media these days, and boomers are no exception. Of particular use to them is the convenience of having content, full episodes in particular, in an on-demand environment,” said Vivi Zigler, executive VP, NBC digital entertainment and new media, NBC Entertainment. “Any feature that helps them juggle their time—the quick snapshot of NBC’s nightly schedule; the two-minute replays we provide on many of our shows; or catching up on their favorite show in the rewind player—all allow them to be in control and to consume great NBC content in whatever way suits their lives.”
Ever-Changing Ways
As time goes on, one reality confronting the boomer generation is that it’s constantly in flux. Older boomers are facing retirement, a fact that has not been lost on Retirement Living TV. In a recent survey of television system programming directors and general managers, Retirement Living TV was named “most wanted.” The channel was named as the top “get” for networks passing 1 million to 40 million homes by 43% of respondents.
“Retirement is one of the most vibrant periods of our lives and we are the only network on television that has created programming that consistently informs, inspires and involves our viewers,” said Charles Hirschhorn, chief creative officer at Retirement Living TV.
“Our heath and wellness series ‘Healthline’ is a big success. Live news and information on ‘Daily Café’ is very popular, as is financial advice on ‘The Prudent Advisor’ and entertainment news and interviews on ‘The Florence Henderson Show.’ This month we plan to launch a dating show called ‘Another Chance for Romance’ which we expect to be a breakout hit,” he said.
The network also scored a coup by recruiting an icon of the boomer generation, veteran newsman Walter Cronkite, to host “The Cronkite Commentaries” as a weekly feature of “Daily Café.”
RLTV has a unique appeal to advertisers who want to reach the older end of the boomer generation. “Everyone from existing major advertisers like Pfizer and Prudential to dot-com companies like PerfectMatch.com have found that we’re not just an ad vehicle, we deliver results,” said Mr. Hirschhorn. “In addition to TV and online ads, sponsorships and program integrations, in conjunction with Erickson Communities we offer targeted print, location and live-event sponsorships.”
All across the dial, baby boomers are being served because they’re a demographic that matters to advertisers. Speaking for TV Land, but expressing a view shared by all programmers, Ms. Cohen said, “We make sure that we understand the marketplace and what is important to our viewers. We try to do our best to bring them the best possible programming with informed strategic decisions around them. We try to fill voids and bring the best possible schedule.”


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