I was watching the results show of American Idol last night and thinking about Twitter. I see a lot of people twittering about the show. (We West coast folks have to be careful to leave Twitter at 5 p.m., or those yakky East Coasters will ruin the show for us with their give-away comments.) Then it occurred to me--people on Twitter aren't all that young. You'll see a lot of really old adults like us Baby Boomers. And these people are watching a show that originally was targeted toward a far younger audience. According to what I could find on the Web, AI's median viewing age is now 40.3 years. When the show first started that median age was in the thirties.
How many American Idol viewers do you suppose even listen to Top Forty radio stations, where the records of the show's winners are played? I sure don't. I never miss an American Idol show (thank you, Tivo), but even when my favorite singer wins, a year later my 19-year-old daughter has to tell me, "So-and-So's CD released." (Said daughter stopped watching American Idol four years ago at age 15.) Then I'll buy the CD. Otherwise I'd miss the product created by the show.
I wonder--is the show now more popular than its end products? A TV show sustains itself on advertising income, which is based on viewership. But if those end product CDs aren't selling as well as hoped, the record company isn't going to be so excited about signing the AI winners. Those record deals were the original point of the show. Is AI now sustaining itself because the process of watching the competition and voting is more powerful and popular than the resulting CDs? (Think Taylor Hicks.)
From a marketing point of view--pretty fascinating stuff. I can think of a similar phenomenon in the book industry. The Harry Potter books were supposed to be young adult--but were read by all ages. Now the Twilight series is seeing the same thing. But even in these examples, the target audience has remained. It's just that readership has expanded beyond it. If American Idol originally targeted the 18-34 demographics, it's technically failing, in that this segment of the population is watching AI less. Yet the show has more viewers than ever.