‘60 Minutes’ Gets Younger, and Its Viewers Do Too
The oldest newsmagazine on television, “60 Minutes,” might have figured out how to halt the aging process.
Purposefully but almost imperceptibly, the CBS News program, the most popular of its genre, has become younger in recent years. Stalwarts like Steve Kroft and Lesley Stahl have been joined by new contributors like Lara Logan and Anderson Cooper. And the program has embraced the Web to a degree that some of its older viewers have not, selling an iPad app on iTunes and promoting a weekly online show, “Overtime.” After televising an hourlong “60 Minutes” tribute to Mike Wallace, a founding correspondent who died last month, CBS proudly noted in a news release that “ ‘Mike Wallace’ was a worldwide trending topic on Twitter Sunday night.”
Perhaps consequentially, or maybe just coincidentally, the 44-year-old newsmagazine is bucking network television’s downward ratings trend. In the season that started in September, viewership among 25- to 54-year-olds, the demographic that CBS hopes to reach, is up about 6 percent, to an average 3.5 Nielsen rating, from a 3.3. That increase has come even as the total viewer rating for “60 Minutes” has remained about the same.
Given that this has been a season of memorial services for “60 Minutes” legends, for Andy Rooney last winter, then for Mr. Wallace this spring, the gains have been especially heartening to the staff.
“It’s hard in television to grow from year to year,” said Jeff Fager, the “60 Minutes” executive producer. Indeed, the program’s average audience did slip a bit in 2009 and 2010. “Yet that’s what we set out to do every season,” he said. “To do it this season with younger viewers, for a news broadcast, is particularly gratifying.”