Fox News' aging audience could be a big problem

While it still has the most viewers in cable news, they're getting older than the demographic most advertisers target.

By Aimee Picchi Jul 23, 2013 1:01PM

Fox News (© Andy Kropa/Getty Images)Fox News ended the second quarter of 2013 in a familiar place -- ranked No. 1 among cable news viewers for the 46th quarter in a row. 

But that dominance was accompanied by an alarming demographic shift for the 21st Century Fox (FOXA) network as thousands of viewers younger than 54 changed the channel. 

That may be giving some Fox News executives their own gray hairs. The network's median age has edged above 65 for six of the past eight years, The New York Times' Bill Carter reports. It's impossible to know exactly how old Fox News' audience is, because ratings company Nielsen doesn't provide an exact figure once viewers are older than 65.

At the same time, viewers in the 25-to-54 age group have been dwindling. The network shed 11% of its younger viewers in the second quarter.

That's a bad sign for any network, but it's especially worrying for a news channel, where advertisers buy programs based on the number of viewers who are 25 to 54. (Most entertainment channels use the slightly younger 18-49 demographic as a yardstick.)

"The numbers indicate they haven't been replacing the younger viewers," cable analyst Craig Moffett, who runs Moffett Research, told the Times. 

Fox News' aging audience puts it in a rather undistinguished group of cable networks. Only two other channels have hit the over-65 age group: the game-show channel GSN and rural news network RFD. 

What's unknown is whether the aging audience will put a dent in Fox News' ability to attract advertisers, but clearly a huge amount of money is at stake. "Median age is important. For some clients, getting old is a concern," Tracey Riener, an executive at ad-buying firm Havas Media, told the Times. 

Age matters to advertisers for two reasons. First is the industry's belief that younger people are more open to marketing messages and more likely to change brands if a catchy commercial gets their attention. Second, certain advertisers target their messages for specific age groups, such as Unilever's (UL) Axe brand of deodorants, which aim at young men (and so it's unlikely to buy ad time on Fox News).

Fox News may be trying to lure new, younger viewers with some programming shifts, tapping Megyn Kelly, 42, for a prime-time role and hiring Elisabeth Hasselbeck, 36, for "Fox and Friends." Both are younger than Fox News' top hosts, such as Bill O'Reilly, who is 63, and Sean Hannity, 51.

Executives at Fox News are likely looking for the new blood to help revitalize their viewership. After all, it's not a good business practice if your audience is at risk of dying out. 

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi

More on moneyNOW

Jul 23, 2013 1:33PM
Younger viewers aren't as prone to paranoid fear, so the Fox News message is largely lost on them.  I'd also wager the younger generations obtain their news from the internet rather than 24-hour cable news channels. 
Jul 23, 2013 2:03PM
Demographics do shift & advertisers will follow the trends.  Viagra & Ciallis probably favor FOX.  Fruit Loops, nose rings, and X Box 360 types, probably favor MSNBC.
Jul 23, 2013 1:55PM
Says MSNBC...cuz they're TOTALLY unbiased (cough, gag...)
Jul 23, 2013 1:44PM
Considering that there's a large number of people under 30 still living with mommy and daddy, it really doesn't matter what they say when they have no money.
Jul 23, 2013 1:46PM
Oh OK now I get it!!!!!! I'm 63 & my money is no longer good enough for fancy new age commercials! So what about the next 20 years I'm supposed to live to, you guys don't want that money, hummmm?
Jul 23, 2013 1:43PM

As GEN X ages, and becomes responsible for our families, the migration towards conservative in inevitable.


One can only get news from Comedy Central for so long before one finds life isn't a joke.

Jul 23, 2013 1:38PM
Have Fox's viewers ages been verified? Watch Fox News for 6 weeks and then see how you look.
Jul 23, 2013 1:48PM
Like Winston Churchill said "To be a Liberal when you are young means you will have a heart when you get old.  To be a Liberal when you are old means you are a fool".  There will never be a shortage of conservatives.  Only young working Liberal media folks don't understand the natural progression. 
Jul 23, 2013 1:45PM
Wonder how the ratings for the Obama Fan Club Network, NBC, held up with his wavering approval. 
Jul 23, 2013 2:21PM

You are not entitled to Welfare; you are not entitled to Medicaid. You are not entitled to free legal care, an education, or a cell phone. Anything you get is a gift to you from those who pay your way through life and you should get down on your knees and be thankful. No one is entitled to something they did not earn. Welfare is to be a hand up, not a hand out. It is not meant to be forever, it is not meant to be a way of life. It is not a gift for, or to, your next generation. The world owes you nothing. I owe you nothing. This country owes you nothing except a return of what you have given; Nothing more. WHAT HAVE YOU GIVEN?

Wont get this on liberal media....

Jul 23, 2013 2:44PM
It wasn't Fox News calling Zimmerman the white hispanic. Talk about bias. The liberals don't even try to hide it anymore.
Jul 23, 2013 2:22PM
HAHAHA...46 quarters in a row! hmmm, that's 11.5 years!! Must suck being one of those lefty channels who can't buy their viewership! Chris "tingle down my leg" Matthews or Rachel Madcow, anyone??LOL
Jul 23, 2013 1:43PM
Jul 23, 2013 1:33PM
Ha! Ha! Always looking for something wrong with Fox News. It's Number One and the libs can't stand it because we trust Fox and we don't trust the mainstream.

P.S. Everyone is aging. Some of us just get smarter younger. 
Jul 23, 2013 2:22PM
Interesting that they do not note what other networks picked up the "lost" Fox viewers. If any of the nbc networks picked up a fraction of them, it would be all over this site.
Jul 23, 2013 3:08PM
I have read posts how some think Fox viewers, especially older people are subject to paranoid fear. These are the same people that have fought in past wars and defended this country. I doubt that they are paranoid. I usually find from my experience in law enforcement is that those who scream that someone is paranoid are the one's who are really paranoid. They fear those who seek and know the truth.
Jul 23, 2013 2:51PM

Since the author cited NO SOURCE for this article other than an aging NYTimes writer, and in fact just selectively copied his stuff for her *^#^, I checked the Nielsen ratings before commenting. If you do the same you will find the complete opposite of what she states.


MSN should be embarrassed to have her still on their staff, and I'm embarrassed to look at ANYTHING on wonder they are getting their a** kicked.

Jul 23, 2013 2:07PM
the younger generation is the give me generation and don't want the truth just more handouts
Jul 23, 2013 1:44PM
Fox News is number 1 because every single person of that political persuasion watches Fox.  If you are anything else you have any number of choices from ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, etc.  If you add up all the rest, Fox is not even close.  Their numbers are falling because of exactly what DennisDuffy stated.  Young people are much more exposed to the world and don't subscribe to that paranoid crap.  This is a network that projected Romney to win the election by a landslide!
Jul 23, 2013 1:35PM
FOX is still the most watched news on cable, whatever the age of those watching. Surprise, the old timers vote a larger percentage than all other groups. Well, maybe blacks vote for blacks ninety percent of the time.
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