Once registered, you can:

  • - Read additional free articles each month
  • - Comment on articles and featured creative work
  • - Get our curated newsletters delivered to your inbox

By registering you agree to our privacy policy, terms & conditions and to receive occasional emails from Ad Age. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Are you a print subscriber? Activate your account.


By Published on .

As the upfront TV marketplace approaches, CBS is fighting back against cable TV's inroads on Madison Avenue, particularly the "Media at the Millennium" presentation being made to shops by Turner Broadcasting System.

In a major research study that will be presented to agencies over the next month or so, CBS says heavy adult viewers of cable -- that one-fifth of those who account for 56% of all cable viewing in the 25-to-54-year-old demographic -- are less educated with lower incomes than generally thought.

"The myth is that the heavy cable viewer is high-income and better educated," said David Poltrack, CBS exec VP-planning and research.


Using data from a custom analysis of Nielsen Television Index numbers for last November, CBS concluded the heavy cable viewer, compared with the cable universe overall, is 31% more likely to have an income of less than $30,000, 17% more likely to be single, 16% more likely not to have attended college and 11% more likely to live in a rural area.

Countered Turner President Steve Heyer when CBS' findings were described to him: "The research is suspect because it doesn't sound as if they are comparing apples to apples. The heavy cable user needs to be compared to the heavy broadcast user."

Mr. Heyer emphasized he hadn't seen the research.

Mr. Poltrack, while conceding the broadcast-only home viewer is indeed on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale, said, "Even if you factor those people in, the adult heavy-broadcast-network users, in total, are better educated and have higher incomes than the adult heavy-cable user."


Furthermore, the study says cable networks in general overdeliver to the heaviest viewers, missing the hard-to-reach lightest TV viewers.

For example, it states that in prime time, 43% of the cable audience from Oct. 27 to Nov. 23 watched TNT. Of that audience, about 68% were made up of the heaviest cable users while only about 9% were the viewers who watch cable the least.

The broadcast networks, during the same time period, reached a far greater number of light users -- 50% of the lightest cable viewers, Mr. Poltrack said.

"This is even true of the lowest-rated programming on the broadcast networks," he added, noting that one of the major points of Turner's presentation is that buyers should consider substituting cable programming for the lowest-rated shows on network broadcast TV.

Most Popular
In this article: