If TNT Wants Younger Viewers, Look No Further Than ‘Dallas’

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, TNT

Young love

Memorandum

To: Jeff Bewkes, chairman and chief executive officer, Time Warner Inc.

From: Dallas Decoder

Re: “Dallas”

So TNT wants to start chasing younger viewers, huh?

That’s what you told investors yesterday, and it sounds like a smart plan to me. As you pointed out, TNT traditionally targets somewhat older audiences — a strategy that served the cable channel well for a long time, but not so much these days.

The numbers tell the tale: According to the Los Angeles Times, TNT’s prime time audience has declined 13 percent during the past five years, from 2.2 million to 1.9 million viewers, while the median age has gone up, from 47 to 52 years.

So yeah, I see why you think it’s time for a new strategy.

The good news is your lineup includes “Dallas,” a show that could become a cornerstone in your plans to rebuild TNT.

Yes, it’s true “Dallas’s” ratings are down: The show averaged 2.7 million viewers last season, including roughly 958,000 adults between ages 18 and 49, the demographic often used to gauge a show’s youth appeal. This year, “Dallas” is averaging 1.9 million viewers, including roughly 630,000 18-to-49-year-olds.

But here’s the thing: Even though “Dallas’s” numbers have dipped, it still performs pretty well when compared to TNT’s other original dramas — especially where the younger crowd is concerned. For example, this winter, “Rizzoli & Isles” averaged about 952,000 adults between ages 18 and 49, while “Perception” grabbed approximately 574,000 viewers in this category.

Also, all the shows boost their audiences when you add DVR users who record the programs and watch them later in the week. Sometimes, the increase is dramatic: Thanks to DVR users, “Dallas’s” season premiere hit 1.4 million 18-to-49-year-olds, while the midseason cliffhanger snagged 1 million viewers in the demo.

There’s also this: “Dallas” is TNT’s biggest show on social media — and we all know how the kids love to post, tweet and share these days. “Dallas’s” official Facebook page has 1.6 million “likes,” while the show’s Twitter feed has 89,000 followers. By comparison, “Major Crimes,” TNT’s most-watched show, has 491,000 Facebook likes and 12,500 Twitter followers.

You also told investors you think TNT’s programming should be a little edgier. Well, my goodness, did you see “Dallas’s” midseason finale? It wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but it sure got people talking.

I guess it all comes down to this, Mr. Bewkes: As the head honcho at Time Warner — the conglomerate that owns TNT, the channel that televises “Dallas,” and Warner Bros., the studio that produces it — the show’s future rests in your hands.

And since you’re a smart fellow, surely you can you see how “Dallas” can serve as your bridge to the younger, media-savvy viewers you’ve set your sights on. It’s one more reason this show deserves a fourth season.

A word of caution, though: Just because TNT is going to start chasing younger viewers, don’t get any wacky ideas about sidelining “Dallas’s” veterans. This show has always had multi-generational appeal, and even though fans love the new generation of buff, young Ewings running around Southfork these days, we still want longtime favorites like Bobby and Sue Ellen to get plenty of screen time.

In other words: Mess with Miss Texas and you’ll receive a much different memo from Dallas Decoder.

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