TNT shut the door on The Closer on on Monday night, with more than nine million fans tuning in to see the series off—about seven million of whom were 50 or older. It's a trend that has dogged any number of police procedurals: huge numbers; not enough young people. Mind you, any cable show that gets more than two million viewers in the demo is doing just fine, thank you, but those numbers are outside the norm for the venerable drama: the highest 18-to-49 rating it drew in its final season, prior to that episode, was 1.3 million viewers on July 30; its season premiere wasn't even in the top 50 shows on cable.
What's interesting is that The Closer did much better in the 25-to-54-year-old demo (on which it sells most of its guarantees). A serious chunk of the show's viewership appears to be between 50 and 54 years old—not as desirable (or so the conventional wisdom goes) as the younger demo, but during its final six weeks on the air, the show usually had no fewer than 300,000 viewers (and probably many more) floating in that five-year age range, keeping it in the top 50 shows for that demo during the whole season (the show dropped off the ranker among 18-to-34-year-olds). For that final episode, the difference is some 700,000 viewers—not exactly chump change, from an advertising perspective.
That age is a group of watchers who are becoming increasingly valuable to networks. They're baby boomers, and at this rate, they're going to be the last generation for a while with pensions, Medicare, and lots of disposable income. They're also all going to be in the 55+ netherworld in five years or less. The whole reason the demo rankings cut off at 55 years old is that advertisers didn't believe that they could convince anybody above AARP age to change buying habits, but the issue of consumerly pliability may be moot: if they're the only group with walking-around money, the shows they watch may be the best place to stick your ad dollars.
Meanwhile, as the show rides off into the sunset, its last segment did solid work as an intro for Major Crimes, the policier on which TNT has bet big this year. The trend is just as pronounced for Major Crimes: the show retained a whopping 7.18 million total viewers from its lead-in, and just as many of them were very old by TV standards. Only 1.5 million adults 18-to-49 were part of that number, but change the demo to 25-to-54 and you've got a full 2 million people watching—so at least half a million of this show's viewers are between 50 and 54, and that's assuming nobody between 18 and 25 is checking the show out at all. That gives us some idea of the age at which viewer interest really starts to increase in this kind of programming; it's not as young as marketers undoubtedly would like, but with median age climbing at every network (Fox has the youngest at 46), it's useful data for the future.