WGA Strike Changing Media Viewing Habits

January 29, 2008

This article is included in these additional categories:

Broadcast & Cable | Media & Entertainment | Television | Videogames

The vast majority of Americans know about the writers’ strike, and approximately one-third of the population has already changed media habits as a direct result, according to a national survey by Interpret LLC, which also found that many Americans would think poorly of stars who attend an Oscar ceremony held during the strike.

Between the potential damage to the Academy Awards and falling TV viewership, advertisers may have to scramble to get their message out, Interpret said, citing data hinting that print and videogames could be alternative vehicles for advertisers.

“Ironically, the strike makes scripted programming more valuable than ever,” Michael Dowling, CEO, Interpret said. “As top shows disappear from primetime, viewers may go back and view critically lauded TV series they missed the first time around, play more video games or watch more movies on DVD.”

Highlights of Interpret’s national poll of Americans’ media habits in the wake of the strike:

  • The vast majority of Americans (94%) are aware of the writers’ strike.
  • More than one-third of Americans (35%) have already changed their TV viewing habits as a direct result of the strike:
    • Three in ten (27%) are watching less network TV because of the strike.
    • Heavy TV viewers (21+ hrs/week) are most impacted by the strike: 32% are watching less network TV as a result.
  • Key beneficiaries of this decline in TV viewing so far:
    • Watching DVD movies (43% watching more because of the strike
    • Reading books/magazines (38%)
    • Playing video games (26%)
    • Watching TV shows on DVD (23%)
  • If the networks replace first-run series with reality shows and repeats, the impact will get worse: nearly half of Americans (46%) say their TV viewing behavior would change.
  • Only 32% of Americans say a lingering strike would not affect TV habits.
  • Adults 25-34 are most likely to say their behavior would change (54%).
  • Among those who are familiar with the issues involved in the strike (55% of Americans), 56% say they support the WGA, 7% support the studios, and 37% support neither/don’t know.
  • If the Academy Awards go on despite the strike, one-third of Americans (33%) say movie stars should not attend the ceremony.
  • Many fans say they would have a less favorable impression of actors who go: New as well as seasoned stars would take a hit to their image among fans, especially Meryl Streep (29% less favorable among her fans), Cate Blanchett (27%), Michael Cera (26%), Jodie Foster (25%), George Clooney (25%), Brad Pitt (24%).
  • Oscar’s biggest fans have the strongest reaction if the show were to go on without a deal:
    • Among those who have watched the telecast every year for the past 5 years, half (52%) would think twice before tuning in to a struck show. One-quarter (26%) would definitely or probably not tune in.
    • Among these Oscar fans, half (49%) say stars should not cross the picket lines for the awards, and those who do so risk harsher judgment: 49% of Brad Pitt’s fans say they would have a less favorable opinion of him were he to attend, and 46% of Angelina Jolie’s fans would think less of her.

About the study: Interpret’s survey was conducted online among a representative sample of 1,013 Americans 18-49, January 11-12, 2008. Participants must have watched at least 1 hour of TV programming weekly through any method, “live,” DVR, online, etc.

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