Viacom's TV Land Shifts Focus to Boomers

Cable Network Adds Original Programming to Cater to Me Generation

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- TV Land has long been in love with Lucy and happy to keep things "All in the Family." But the nostalgia-heavy network is about to update itself with a new lineup designed to exclusively reach out to what it considers to be the media's most overlooked audience: baby boomers.
TV Land is reaching out to the vast baby boomer population with new shows, making it the first major cable network to specifically target that demographic.
TV Land is reaching out to the vast baby boomer population with new shows, making it the first major cable network to specifically target that demographic.

Vocal demographic
The Me Generation, now post-50 and therefore past the demographically desired age, has been quite vocal with their accusations of neglect from the advertising industry. With this in mind, TV Land has unveiled plans for the 2006-2007 season to add new shows both celebrity driven (George Foreman's "Family Forman") and reality based ("The Big 4-0") that will relate directly to audiences ages 40 to 60 -- making it the first major cable network to specifically target that demographic.

"The Me Generation, the yuppies, however you want to refer to them -- the generation demands attention from someone who's communicating to them on their terms," said network President Larry Jones. "TV Land is ready to be that network."

Household spending
The network's narrowing of focus comes on the heels of its own study, titled "TV Land's New Generation Gap," commissioned with the help of boomer expert Ken Dychtwald. Results from a poll of more than 4,000 U.S. residents in their 40s and 50s found the generation to be wealthier than 18- to 39-year-olds (the latter's $1.5 trillion total household expenditures pale in comparison to the boomers' $2.3 trillion). These staggering statistics prompted Mr. Dychtwald to dub yesterday's boomers "the new power demographic."

Yet aside from a glut of financial and pharmaceutical spots, commercial breaks are still sorely lacking in boomer representation, Mr. Dychtwald said.

"I'm 56. I can buy a better car than a 23-year-old," he said. "This is sort of a marketer's dream -- a big, free-spending generation that's interested in new technology but is getting increasingly annoyed."

Way back in the 1970s
Mr. Jones cited the 1970s as the genesis of the 18-to-49 and 25-to-54 demographics (back during the boomers' late teens and early 20s), after which point ad spending toward those groups began to trail off as they entered older adulthood.

"The 25-to-54 demo does embrace the yin and yang of the advertising industry," Mr. Jones said. "What does a 25-year-old really have in common with a 54-year-old?"

This is why new age groups need to be segmented and created, Mr. Jones added, which is where the newly formatted TV Land comes in. Seventy percent of its viewership is already over 50.

Super-serving boomers
"A lot of TV shows appeal to that generation -- 'Desperate Housewives,' 'Law & Order,' 'CSI' -- each have an all-boomer cast. Shows like that say, 'Here's a voice of authority,'" he said. "But they're not connected to any brand. We're here to super-serve that demo, just like MTV was for 18- to 29-year-olds and Nickelodeon was designed for 6- to 12-year-olds."

And the grey-haired boomer looks of this year's "American Idol" winner, 29-year-old Taylor Hicks?

"I don't think it was an accident," Mr. Jones said.

Ultimately, the network plans to take what it learned from the study and adapt them to all aspects of its content. Mr. Jones would love to help the automotive, health and beauty and packaged-goods industries usher in new campaigns aiming for the "power demographic," while Lean Cuisine has already done its part to play up its boomer appeal.

Boomer icon
But what the network really has its hopes set upon is the christening of George Foreman as the first reality star for the Me Generation.

"He's a really funny guy, he's got 10 kids, four or five of whom work for him," Mr. Jones said. "He started out in boxing but now he's got a whole grill empire. So here's this guy who's reinventing himself in the second half of his life. That's exactly what boomers want to do. He's the boomer icon."
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