The Richest and Poorest Shows on Network TV – From ‘Modern Family’ to ‘Bob's Burgers’

The Richest and Poorest Shows on Network TV – From 'Modern Family' to 'Bob's Burgers'

Free life advice: Marry a “Modern Family” fan

The Dunphys of “Modern Family” might not eat at “Bob's Burgers” — and fans of the shows might not eat at the same restaurants, either.

The two comedies are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of their average viewers’ median incomes. The median “Modern Family” viewer in the 18-49 demographic rakes in $81,100 annually, according to Nielsen data. “Bob's Burgers” watchers in the demo, on the other hand, earn around $48,000 per year.

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Neither are particularly rich or poor — but the ratings company carefully tracks even minor differences in wealth because advertisers want to wring out as much as they can from the people who watch their shows.

TheWrap found the gap between ABC's “Modern Family” and Fox's “Bob's Burgers” by looking at Nielsen's average median income of primetime viewers this season for the four biggest broadcast networks — not including sports, specials, or awards ceremonies.

Parks-and-RecIn second place in terms of wealth are viewers of NBC's “Parks and Recreation” (left), who have a median income of $81,000 per year. Fans of CBS's “The Amazing Race” are third, with a salary of $75,700.

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That means ABC, NBC and CBS are sharing the wealth with the top three shows, which also happen to be critical darlings.

“It's not too surprising that higher income viewers are more likely to watch programs that are critically acclaimed and contenders for industry awards like the Golden Globes and Emmys,” Brad Adgate, senior vice president of Research at Horizon Media, told TheWrap.

Advertisers focus on the 18-49 demo because they hope to land lifelong customers early. But people tend to hit their peak income in their mid-50s, Adgate said.

Also read: Network Execs Explain Which Ratings Matter — And Which Don't

“If you have say a show that's really young and really upscale, then you have something,” he said.

“The West Wing” had the highest median income Adgate could recall. Shows on cable, especially premium cable, and Netflix tend to have wealthier audiences — since their viewers must be able to afford to watch them.

The new fall show with the highest median income is “The Goldbergs,” at $73,900. “Very rarely does a first-year show command the ad value of a (longer-running) show,” Adgate said.

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Mindy-ProjectViewers of the doctor-centric “The Mindy Project” (right) have a median income of $73,800. Another medical drama, “Grey's Anatomy,” may not have as many rich doctors among its fans — it has a median viewer income of $70,500, putting it in 18th place.

“Mindy,” which has the seventh-wealthiest audience, is Fox's top-ranker in terms of well-off viewers.

A little further down the list is “Shark Tank” — a show about venture capitalists vying to invest in start-up companies. It's in 16th place with $70,800.

Now for the shows you probably shouldn't mention on a first date with a gold digger.

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Animated shows — including “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” “American Dad” and the aforementioned “Bob's Burgers” — have among the least wealthy audiences. That makes sense, Adgate says, because cartoon viewers skew younger.

Other shows on the low end of the list are Fox's “Bones” ($56,600) and CBS's “Undercover Boss” — a show in which well-off executives perform menial, low-paying but necessary tasks ($55,800). “America's Funniest Home Videos” viewers have a median income of $54,700.

Here are the top 10 TV shows with the highest median income in the key demo for the fall season so far:


And the least wealthy, from the bottom up:


  • Simon

    This article is a larger pile of crap than most of the shows on those lists.

    • Nelson

      you're crap Simon

      • Ralph

        How dare you Nelson.

        • Lisa

          I really don't think that you understand your character.

        • Nelson

          Sorry Ralph

  • uncoveror

    The few shows I actually watch aren't on either list. Does that make me “middle class”?

    • Ralph

      It means you're smarter than the people whom still watch network tv.

      • Sam Samson

        ‘Oohh, look at me, I don't watch network tv!’

      • Edward Thomas

        Apparently that isn't smart enough to know how to use whom properly.

      • 209670938609387

        Not all of us have “TV Providers”. The current stance of “There's no excuse” doesn't apply when my monthly utilities add up to one month of cable service.

        Introductory rates are nonsense: 6 months to 1 year into a 2 year contract, it climbs to $120+ for basic service, and if I refuse to pay or want out, $400 ETF. No thanks.

  • Brianna Vadala

    The one time in my life I'll be considered “rich”!!

  • Motlama

    How is there average incomes of $70,000 plus? I seem to know tons of folks who don't even come close to $20,000/year. I would say more of them, so there has to be a lot of folks making a $100,000 of more to get 70G Average income.

    • Stephan

      Congratulations, you answered your own question.

  • Adriana

    Six figures here. I watch more shows on the “Rich” list than the “Poor” list; however, I watch the top three “poorest” shows as regularly (“Bob's Burgers” is especially one of my favorites) as the ones on the “rich” list.

    My two favorite shows right now — “Community” (NBC) and “The Walking Dead” (AMC) — aren't even on the list.

    This comparison reveals more about the age of the viewers than anything else. Many of the shows just skew young, not “poor.” Those factors just happen to go together. I'm sure “South Park”‘s viewership was “poor” a decade ago. Now I know a 42-year-old partner at a law firm who actually made a joke about Canadians with flapping heads to a client over the phone, so I'm guessing its viewership is slightly older and probably slightly “richer” than it was, although not by much as it's still a cartoon on a cable network.

    • adrianalies

      liar. if you made “six figures” you wouldn't have time to post how much you make online.

      • Adriana

        Why? Because everyone who earns six figures works 80 hours a week? I work about 55-60 hours a week as the job demands. I am an attorney. I posted right before I left and the post took me about 4 minutes to write. I am on my lunch break right now. And why would I bother lying about something so stupid? I am trying to point out that there's a weak correlation between income and TV watching habits, or at least that age is probably a stronger correlation.

        • Ohplease

          I'm going to call bull sh*t too. You know you just answer the phone for $10 bucks an hour. We all like to pretend on the internet-machine.

        • 209670938609387

          Also: On the Internet, people in comments hate rich folks. “Those who have” aren't meant to mix with us “damaged people” on purpose. You are supposed to write articles in blogs and news outlets like these insisting on your point of view and not reply to us plebians, who will gnash every single typo and loosely written phrase to try to feel superior to the stooge who wrote the article in an attempt to rob them of superiority.

          Nothing personal, it's just how we all roll.

    • Ryan

      six figures and a movie!

      • Adriana

        Good one.

    • 209670938609387

      Guessing from The Michael J. Fox being on the list and Sean Saves The World not being on there, they only considered the shows during Fall Premiere week (MJFS ran for a full hour in it's debut). Community started in January, so this seems consistent. (I might be wrong.)

  • thewrapsucks

    apparently people who make less than $48,800 don't watch tv?

  • Bad Math

    These numbers must be based on household incomes not viewer incomes. The median household income in the US is just over $50,000.00. The median annual wage is only about $26,000.00.

    Many of Modern Family's 10.8 million viewers are children with no income at all, but they actually did acknowledge they are only looking at Adults 18-49. Even still the median household income for individuals under 25 is only $27,000.00. Median income peaks around $78,000 between age 45 and 54, but half of those high earners were not counted in this study. Only ~36 million households out of ~110 million households (not individuals) in the United States earn over $75,000.00 annually.

    Modern Family's season premiere was seen by 10.8 million people. The Median is the dead center number. For Modern Family to have a median viewer income (age 18-49) of $81,000.00, every viewer making over $81K would have to be matched by an equal number of viewers earning less than $81K.

    Example: A 35 year old husband and wife sit down the watch Modern Family with their 2 kids. The survey ignores the kids, and grandma for that matter if she came over. The husband is a stay at home dad and earns $0.00. The wife is an executive and clears $162,000 annually. Then you get an average viewer income of $81K. In this case the average is also the median.

    As of 2006 only 5.63% of individuals over 25 earn $100K, so the mom in this example is earning well above any median or average income, and using the median eliminates the influence of the super rich. For everyone one Kardashian watching modern family it only takes one unemployed viewer to neutralize the effect.

    So, it his highly likely we are simply being shown the median household income of adults age 18-49 that have their act together well enough and care enough to fill out a Nielsons television survey.

    • Bill Cosby

      Nobody has time to read a comment longer than the article the comment is about

    • TheWrap

      It is the median income of individuals in the 18-49 demographic for the specified date range this fall per Nielsen. But we appreciate the math!

  • Robin

    $81,000. per year is hardly rich. Although given current terms we have been convinced of some ridiculous things in terms of who is ‘rich'. This more likely reflects who will answer a stupid survey.

  • Bobby Bob

    Anybody notice what's missing? All of the non-network shows.

  • matt


  • Alexandra Cross

    I want to know what the purpose of this article is? I mean I don't understand at all what the point of knowing this is? It's utter tripe, can't these writers find anything more productive to investigate?

  • Tresix

    How are reality shows like “Shark Tank”, “X-Factor” and “Dateline” on this list? That seems so ridiculous. Also, I don't think the Hecks from “The Middle” make anywhere NEAR $70k a year!