Rediscovering the real power of baby boomers

Let’s state an obvious fact: The traditional broadcast network/cable guy business model is on a slippery slide.

Just as the cable guy happily increases his monthly fee for the all-you-can-eat video trough, people are saying “**** you, we’re OTTa (over the top) here.”

OK, folks aren’t really cutting the cord because they still need an Internet connection.

What they’re saying is we want our viewing on our terms when we want it, where we want it and our tastes/interests have broadened beyond the mind-numbing stuff you push out for the “average” viewer.

We’re all the same, but we’re all different! And now that economical (and getting better) 4K smart TVs are available, our time has come.

Oh sure, we won’t change many of our viewing habits. But it’s nice to say you have a choice, even if you don’t take it.

Last year, according to Nielsen (the folks who track what people watch), said there was a whopping average of 1,891 TV channels available to Americans. Despite that rich offering, folks sat down in front of the set and tuned in only an average of 17.5 channels … and Netflix.

Cable plus

Although they’re nowhere near 4K ready, more than $20 billion worth of set-top boxes were still sold, according to Futuresource. With an average price of only $74 they’re almost an “oh what-the-heck” buy when you purchase the TV set.

Folks who like to have the freedom of watching shows on their own time schedules (and can figure out how to use them) added a digital video recorder; but with the cable guy offering a delayed viewing option, those sales will peak next year and then decline rapidly. One reason is that there are just too many decent options today and they’re getting better, cheaper and easier to use.

Of course, millennials are leading the switch. You know, the younger adults who are working on their careers and busy paying off student loans, starting a family and watching less TV.

They grab the news and their entertainment when they can on the TV, their iPad, their iPhone/Galaxy.

Now I appreciate the idea behind the show producers and advertisers targeting these people — they’re going to be potential customers for a lot longer than boomers or seniors.

It sorta’, kinda’ makes sense if you’re in business for the long haul.

Well, sorta’ … kinda’.

But their news and entertainment options are virtually limitless. Catching them with your carefully crafted/tested 30-to-60-second ad is a lucky chance … at best.

Fer gawd sake, go after the easy mark, the one you know is sitting there and has money … the boomer, the senior!

That’s right, the boomer-plus crowd not only has most of the money, it also spends it, so this group shouldn’t be too hard to monetize if the show wrapped around the ad and the ad itself is worth a damn.

Going strong

First of all, it’s pretty hard to tell boomers that they’re over the hill.

These people act/feel young, they move into using technology more slowly but they get more involved with it once they’ve arrived. And, according to a study by NBC Universal, they spend a whole lot more on home improvements, credit cards, travel and beauty products.

They also spend a lot on their kids’ kids.

What will be the saving grace for big-bucks cable bundles is that boomers have been trained since birth that you sit in front of the TV when you want to simply relax and don’t want any heavy thinking. That’s right, 50 plus years of being brainwashed (indoctrinated) that if you want your news, your entertainment, your information; you turn on the TV.

Who didn’t want to be supercool and watch attractive people in action?

Yeah, I thought so.

And as you know, habits — good and bad — are tough to break.

Show developers, networks and cable guys finally get it — OK, they’re slow and needed the demographics to be shown to them.

Ironically, it was the baby boomers who first led TV networks to cater to younger viewers in the 1960s.

They were literally raised in front of the TV.

According to Ipsos, boomers will do their purchasing research online but it’s a TV commercial that gets them thinking about making a purchase.

Suddenly, they’re becoming valuable targets because they aren’t especially frugal and are less brand loyal.

So why will they be the standard TV/cable offerings greatest potential for saving their moneymaking machine until they can figure out what tomorrow holds for them?


Don’t kid yourself, boomers and boomer-plus folks aren’t any happier with their mounting cable bill than their kids or other millennials.

But few of them were willing to make the leap to Aereo when it offered free OTT shows.

Of course, after the Supreme Court shut them down and the Patent Office said they couldn’t qualify as a network, the estimated 77,000 adventurers probably wondered why they couldn’t read the writing on the wall.

Boomers will grouse about their cable bill every month, even as they begin using their smart TV to expand their educational, news, entertainment options; but drop the bundle completely and cut back to the cable company’s Internet service?

Probably not.

Especially when they know exactly where to turn for their new favorite shows.

The networks and cable guys have “discovered” that annually, the over-50 crowd spends $90 billion on cars; and by 2017, they will control 70 percent of the nation’s disposable income.

Now that they’re suddenly hot targets again, you’re seeing a lot of yesteryear’s stars recycled in shows like “NCIS,” “Blue Bloods” and others.

Some age well. Others, not so much.

If we want to revisit those folks, we’ll switch over to an hour or two on YouTube. For the rest, stick with my new 4K UHD smart TV and UltraFlix, Netflix shows.

But for a lot of folks, cutting the cable is a hard habit to break.

Andy Marken of Marken Communications in Santa Clara, Calif., writes on a host of cultural topics. Reach him at

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