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Chris Hicks: News flash to TV execs: Kids aren't watching

Published: Thursday, May 31 2012 4:55 p.m. MDT

NBC executives canceled "Harry's Law," starring Kathy Bates, because the audience was too old, even though the show was the network's second most-watched program.

Mitchell Haaseth, MitchellHaaseth/Nbc

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A few months ago my wife and I went into a department store to look at new televisions, finally having decided to abandon our old living-room set in favor of a new high-definition flat screen that could take full advantage of our Blu-ray player.

We made a couple of trips to the store, looked at several models, discussed them with a couple of salespeople and found that everyone was more than happy to take our money. No one suggested we were too old to buy such a big-ticket item.

Last year, we bought a new car, and the dealership would have been delighted to set up our financing, but we had already taken care of that. And our credit union didn't balk, either. In fact, we were offered more than we asked for.

My wife and I are also talking about the impending need to replace our refrigerator and possibly our oven, another couple of high-end expenditures. And we're pretty confident we won't be turned away by the store when we are ready to put up the cash.

I hasten to add that my wife has a cellphone, we both have iPods and we spend as much time surfing the Internet (or "the interweb," as my 13-year-old granddaughter insists on joking about it) on our respective computers as any of our children and grandchildren — though there is admittedly not nearly as much texting going on.

But because we are both now in our 60s, we are officially off the grid — and have been for more than a decade. At least as far as television programmers and advertisers are concerned.

Think that's an exaggeration?

Exhibit A: The bold admission of ageism by NBC executives a couple of weeks ago when the courtroom procedural "Harry's Law" was canceled. The reason for the cancellation, which they openly offered, was that the audience was too old. Specifically, most viewers were over 50.

Mind you, the show was not canceled due to low ratings. In fact, according to the Los Angeles Times, after the musical "Smash," "Harry's Law" was the network's second most-watched program. But most of those watching were old. (The fact that "Harry's Law" had the audacity to star a woman in her 60s, Academy Award-winner Kathy Bates, probably didn't help.)

In the eyes of the people who run TV networks, once you hit 50, you stop buying stuff and save all your money for retirement. And then, when you get into your 60s and finally retire, you're, what, letting it earn interest in an account labeled: "to be opened upon our death?"

That wouldn't work for us; we have too many kids. After we're gone and it's divvied up, they'll be lucky to come away with lunch money.

Speaking for most baby boomers, that old jokey bumper sticker is our mantra: "I'm spending my children's inheritance." Hey, we gotta eat, too.

So, really, why is it that entertainment movers and shakers are all in hot pursuit of "young" dollars, of the almighty 18-to-34-year-olds or the 18-to-49-year-olds (depending on your source)? Do people in that youth-market demographic really spend more money than people in their 50s and 60s, or for that matter, people in their 70s and 80s?

When I was young, beginning my career on the bottom rung, newly married and having children, I spent a lot less money than I do now. I HAD a lot less money than I do now.

Another factor in all of this is that people in the 18-49 demo today don't actually watch the commercials that have the networks so worked up. Just polling our own adult children, and some of our older grandchildren — they never see the commercials that sponsor their favorite shows. And I mean never. They fast-forward through them or watch shows on Hulu or through Netflix or other streaming devices that use different and fewer commercials, or no commercials at all, or they wait for the home-video releases on iTunes or DVDs or whatever.

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