Introducing the Cable News Dowager Index

Who watches Cable News show and how old are they?

In May, 2014, Dylan Byers commented, without source (I presume Nielsen), that “The average Fox News viewer overall is 68.8, while the average ages of MSNBC and CNN viewers were 62.5 and 62.8, respectively.”  The New York Times observed, in July 2013, “Just how old is [Fox News’] audience? It is impossible to be precise because Nielsen stops giving an exact figure for median age once it passes 65. But for six of the last eight years, Fox News has had a median age of 65-plus…” It goes on to say “MSNBC’s median age for its prime-time shows this year is 60.6; CNN’s is 59.8.”.

Regardless, the average age doesn’t tell us a whole lot about the audience.  Is the average age for Fox 68.8 because half the audience is in their 60s and the other half is in their 70s? Or because a large cohort or 30 year olds are balancing out a (larger) cohort of 80 year olds?

To answer that question (just a bit), I offer the “Cable News Dowager Index”, named after the feisty and opinionated Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey.  It’s the percentage of total viewers of the show who are NOT in the coveted 25-54 year old demographic.  I assume (blithely) that almost all of these people are older than 54 (a good bet in the realm of Cable News, Ronan Farrow not withstanding).  Here’s last week’s Cable News Dowager Index:

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Fox News and MSNBC have almost an identical Dowager Index, while CNN’s and HLN’s audiences have a smaller Dowager component (and therefore a larger Whippersnapper component.)  So all you Fox and MSNBC fans complaining about the other network are just old and crotchety.

Raw data for your amusement: Dowager Index 2015 01 27.xlsx