Over the last few months, MTM has given a lot of our time and attention to talking about young people and the media. This reflects a deep interest among the wider media industry in how young audiences consume content. But we thought it remiss of us not to consider our older friends too. After all, the average age of a BBC1 viewer is now 61 (it’s 60 for ITV and 55 for Channel 4). Moreover, the UK is a prime example of an ageing population; ONS has projected that a quarter of Brits will be aged 65 and over by 2066.

So here’s a whistle-stop tour of what you should know about older media audiences!

  1. Older viewers have more ways to watch content than ever before…

Maybe it’s just us in our young, London media bubble, but it’s easy to assume that older audiences are somewhat resistant to the evolving tech in our living rooms. But the numbers don’t back this up. According to OFCOM’s 2018 Communications Market Report, those aged 55 and over are increasingly taking advantage of all the different ways we can access media and content:

  • Tablet take-up has grown enormously, from 11% in 2013 to 48% having the device in 2018 (only 10% less than the UK average)
  • Exactly a third of 55+s now have Smart TV at home (vs. 42% of total population) and over a fifth have a connected TV (plus 7% have an internet-connected dongle)
  • Over half have the ability to record content through a DVR (in line with the total population), while the number of 55+s with Freeview only is falling

And OFCOM shows this technology isn’t just sitting there unused. Interestingly, those aged 55-64 are the most likely to use their Smart TV to watch content on broadcaster video on-demand services compared to other ages (67%), and not far behind are the 65+s (63%). And it’s not just young people who are using YouTube on their TVs; over 10% of both 55-64s and 65+s use their Smart TV to watch longer video content from the video app (vs. 28% of 16-24s).

  1. TV is becoming more age-friendly

Though only representing 28% of the UK population, those aged 55 and over accounted for a whopping 51% of TV viewing last year. Yes, it’s vital to address the decline in young people’s TV viewing, but the needs and behaviours of older viewers shouldn’t be completely side-lined, especially when this demographic is growing, has money to spend, and when the average audience age of UK drama, sport and entertainment is 55 or above. Interestingly, while the usual suspects like Songs of Praise and Bargain Hunt remain audience favourites among older users, we’re seeing TV become increasingly age-friendly. Thanks to shows such as Gogglebox, First Dates and Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds (coincidentally all Channel 4 shows), older faces are being seen and older voices being heard by a broader audience.

  1. The ‘silver economy’ is enjoying the silver screen

According to the BFI, 55+ is the age bracket that has grown the most in terms of UK cinemagoing – in 2011 8% of admissions were 55+, which grew to 12% in 2016 (contrasting with small declines in all other age brackets, except 35-44). Stephen Follows, film researcher, did some of his own digging, collating dataabout the 662 UK film releases from 2005 and 2016. This revealed that those aged 45+ were most drawn to ‘drama’ and ‘romance’ films, closely followed by ‘mystery’; at least three quarters of the audience for The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Mr. Turner, Philomena and The Queen were aged 45+. These films feature an older cast, with Dames Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Helen Mirren being firm audience favourites; their continued success is noteworthy given the continued debate about ageism in Hollywood.

  1. Silver Surfers are social too

While technological and online literacy is undeniably still more common among older than younger audiences, CMR 2018 by OFCOM gives evidence that this tide is starting to turn:

  • The proportion of 55+s with a smartphone has grown rapidly, from less than 10% in 2010, to 51% this year (compared to 78% of the UK population)
  • As of March, females aged 55+ spend approximately the same amount of time online per day on their smartphone as 25-34 year old males (2hrs18mins), while male 55+s spend about half an hour less (1hr42mins)
  • The number of claimed hours that 55-64s spend online per week has grown by 65% from 2007 to 2017, to 18.1hrs (8 hours short of the UK average of 24)

So how are Silver Surfers spending their time online? Well, OFCOM reports that half of surfers aged 65-74 have a social media profile, with 75+s not far behind – 41% are liking, posting and scrolling (maybe even sliding into DMs!) on a social media profile. The surge in Baby Boomers on Facebook has been well-documented; eMarketer forecasts that over half a million users aged 55+ are expected to join the platform this year, bringing the age group up to 6.4million, and making it the second biggest demographic outside16-34s. Furthermore, Facebook’s updated algorithm will give these users more of what they want, posts from friends and family, suggesting this trend is here to stay.

In short, there is now a sizable audience that loves watching TV (and going to the cinema), has disposable income, and is comfortable using the latest connected technology to access content. Broadcasters and advertisers are still investing heavily to attract elusive Millennials, but maybe they should think about older folks too?