21 and Under Reality Stars Draw Mostly Older Viewers

Rash Report: Gen X, Boomers Tune In For 'Dance' and 'Baby Borrowers'

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- It was a night of fresh faces on network TV Wednesday -- even though two-thirds of the programs were reruns. Contestants in the reality shows that were original were what drew the viewers: The 20 finalists in Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" averaged 21 years of age; while on NBC's "Baby Borrowers," the 18- to 20-year-olds moved from borrowing infants to tending toddlers.
The two-hour 'Dance' stepped Fox into first place.
The two-hour 'Dance' stepped Fox into first place. Credit: Kelsey McNeal/Fox

Both were the highest-rated shows of the night -- but in a demographic that spans their parents -- as the two-hour "Dance" stepped Fox into first place with a 3.2/10 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 target. "Baby Borrowers," meanwhile, delivered a 2.9/8 for an original episode at 9 p.m. ET and a 1.7/6 for an 8 p.m. repeat of last week's episode. And "Celebrity Circus" followed at 10 p.m. with a 1.9/6 to give NBC second place with an overall 2.1/7.

Younger viewers scarce
But the youth on screen wasn't reflected back, as "Dance" delivered a 2.1/9 for viewers 18-24, while "Baby Borrowers" could only borrow an hour from 1.9/8 in the young demo. Indeed, summer TV might make baby boomers and even Generation X feel young, but the millennials seem to be opting for life in front of computer or video-game screens.

The same pattern was repeated on ABC, particularly with a rerun of "Supernanny," in which the toddler tantrums prompt a call for professional help (for the kids, not the audience). It delivered a 1.5/4 in the key demo, but half that in adults 18-24. "Wife Swap" (1.3/4 vs. a .7/3) and "Primetime: Crime" (1.8/5 vs. a .5/2) continued the trend as ABC finished with an overall fourth-place 1.5/5.

Of course, the CW is a network built around youth, which is one of the reasons it consistently finishes fifth, as it did Tuesday night with an overall .4/1. But even it couldn't drag adults 18-24 in front of the set in any significant numbers. The CW did, however, come closest to achieving generational balance -- at least compared to other networks -- as "America's Next Top Model" rated a .5/2 in both adults 18-49 and 18-24, and "The Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious" was the only network show to over-deliver adults 18-24, with a .5/2 compared to the 18-49 delivery of .4/1.

CBS third overall
As for CBS? The gap was more of a gulf. But this shouldn't be surprising for a night featuring a prime-time version of a summertime game show ("The Price Is Right Million Dollar Spectacular") and criminal capers "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: NY." "Price" delivered a 1.5/5 in adults 18-49, but only a .7/3 for 18-24s. The corresponding numbers for "Criminal Minds" (1.5/4 vs. .8/3) and "CSI: NY" (1.8/5 vs. .8/3) were similar. For the night overall, CBS was third in adults 18-49 with a 1.6/5.

So, sure, youth shall be served. But just like many meals during the crazy, lazy days of summertime, young people don't always show up.

Thursday: Most pet owners are just as interesting as pets themselves, so CBS's "Greatest American Dog" should be good summer escapism.
Friday: CBS's hostage-negotiator drama "Flashpoint" may be a bit heavy for summer. And especially a summer Friday night. But it is a rare new summer series that doesn't resemble a talent show at summer camp, so it's worth a try.

Will man's best friend bring men, women and kids back to the set for "Greatest American Dog" in a rare display of all-family viewing?

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NOTE: A share is a percentage of TV households that have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all TV households, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. households with TVs. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live-plus-same-day unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of commercial-minute, live-plus-three-days viewing.)

John Rash is senior VP-director of media analysis for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.
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