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C-SPAN the emerging hipster network: its audience 'trends young'

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C-SPAN first went on the air 34 years ago on Tuesday. And it is of note that viewers of roughly the same age are tuning in to a network where no-frills cameras are trained on lawmakers, policy wonks and pivotal election. Commentary and glitzy package is a minimum.

And therein lies the appeal to the young and restless. The network offers “raw uncut coverage of their political heroes,” says Hart Research pollster Allan Rivlin, who is tracking the growing audience.

Among the 47 million regular C-SPAN viewers, he found that 51 percent are male and 49 percent female; 26 percent are liberal, 31 percent conservative, and 39 percent moderate. Almost half are college graduates.

Viewership is highest, however, among the 18-to-49-year-olds, with 28 percent reporting having watched at least once a week, compared with 19 percent for 50- to 64-year-olds. Twenty-two percent are above age 65.

“This growth in C-SPAN viewership, especially among the youngest groups, is surprising in this time of generalized media fragmentation,” Mr. Rivlin observes. “But it is not so mysterious in that C-SPAN offers the emerging group of information free-agents access to the raw uncut coverage of their political heroes, and sometimes perhaps their villains, they can then share on blogs and social networks.”

Among other things, 43 percent have watched their member of Congress or home state U.S. Senator on C-SPAN. More than a third have written or e-mailed their local lawmaker.Nearly a third report share the network’s videos by uploading or linking them to a Web site.

The survey of 1,229 U.S. adults was conducted Jan. 10-17 and released Tuesday.

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