Wednesday 1 February 2012


50-plus. That's a demographic, not a class of sunscreen. The Los Angeles Times recently ran a story about how the suddenly-trendy 50-plus demographic has its own cable network in the US. 
Kids have Nickelodeon and Disney. Women have Lifetime and Oxygen. Jocks have ESPN, and nerds have G4. Gays and lesbians have Logo. There's even Animal Planet, for pet people. Everyone has a TV channel these days, except senior citizens. The fastest-growing and wealthiest segment of the population has been ignored or forgotten by Hollywood's broadcast and cable networks. Until now.  
John Erickson, a 68-year-old who made his fortune building large retirement communities, has created RLTV, a cable channel designed for the AARP-adjacent. [That's code for people almost old enough to join the American Association of Retired Persons.] He has programmed it with talk shows including Making Medicare Work for You, documentaries such as To Not Fade Away about the early stages of Alzheimer's disease and, on a lighter note, reality shows including Another Chance for Romance and Sunset Daze, best described as a Jersey Shore for adventurous senior citizens in Surprise, Ariz.
For decades, the television industry has ignored people over 50. But the power of the aging baby boomers can't be ignored. There are more than 99 million Americans older than 50. The over-50s are one of the fastest-growing groups on Facebook. And they have money. The AARP says adults over the age of 50 spent $2.7 trillion on consumer goods in 2010.

The networks are slowly turning their attention to this older audience.

As Bobby Bowfinger said of studio executives, "They can smell fifty," and pfft! you're gone. These days those older, talented, experienced discards resent being dismissed from prime time. RLTV gives them the chance to keep working. John Erickson said recently, "We're getting good access to talent."

I pitched a webseries based on a group of retired nurses (like my wife) to a writing group last year. They laughed. They were convinced that only young people are smart enough to handle the internet. I just thought, let's wait and see...


Kathy said...

I'm so pleased to hear it. The British seem to admire ageing actors as well, with the likes of Maggie Smith and the Redgrave sisters and Judi Dench and Angela Lansbury and Helen Mirren still making movies.

Anne Flournoy said...

Cheesh. This is the most relevant news I've come across on the whole internet!!! Thank you for researching and posting it.

Are you aware of '50 to Death' by Norm Golden and Joan Barber? They're fantastically modest but successful with a huge worldwide mailing list.

Henry Sheppard said...

Yeah, we ran an episode of their webseries, "2010 A Space Odyssey" last year. Here: