Sunday, January 11, 2009

Television Programming Trends Regarding Young Adults

Today's Los Angeles Times has an article on how television networks may be moving away from demographic targeting of young adults in their programming, in favor of family-oriented, "big tent" fare that appeals to all ages. In other words, we may see fewer shows inspired by "Friends" and "Seinfeld," and more modeled after "The Cosby Show" and "Everybody Loves Raymond." Though the 18-49 year-old "young adult" demographic that's previously been targeted extends well beyond what we would consider emerging adulthood, many of the points in the article mesh well with the study of EA.

As previously discussed on this blog and elsewhere, characteristics of emerging adulthood include openness to novelty and experimentation. For this reason, television executives, marketers, and advertisers will never lose touch completely with the 18-49 demographic, according to the article:

None of this means, of course, that the 18-to-49 yardstick is about to become as obsolete as rabbit-ear antennas. Young people remain the most important early adopters of new products and cultural trends. Their purchase decisions are vital to marketers in such big categories as consumer technology, movies and cars.

Another oft-cited theory for why young-adult viewers are important, namely that of establishing lifelong brand loyalty, does not appear to have much support in the media/advertising community:

The idea was that "if you bought Crest toothpaste when you were 18 years old, when you turned 50 you would still use Crest toothpaste," [CBS chief Leslie] Moonves said.

Indeed, [media analyst Steve] Sternberg and others said they knew of no reliable studies backing that theory.

One final point that jumped out at me from the article was the discussion of how increasing life-expectancies are changing notions of age-appropriateness:

Also, Moonves adds, "a 50-year-old today is different than a 50-year-old 25 years ago. The life expectancy is longer; the boomers are doing more in their 50s, they're experiencing more. It's a very different generation."