Media Buyer Sees Strike Eroding Networks’ Ratings in First Half

A lengthy writers strike will cause broadcast networks’ prime-time ratings to decline 9% from expected levels from January to May, a leading media buying agency executive said Tuesday.

Steve Sternberg, executive VP for audience analysis at Magna Global, said in a new report that, compared to its current prime-time estimates, ratings will be 5% lower in January and February, 8% lower in March, off 12% in April and down 13% in May among viewers 18 to 49.

Mr. Sternberg based his estimates on the networks’ current repeat loads and the number of episodes already shot. He said Fox and ABC might be able to limit their losses by scheduling extra episodes of reality hits “American Idol” and “Dancing With the Stars.”

After the strike, Mr. Sternberg said he expects the impact on TV viewing will be negligible, even if the stoppage is a long one.

“No question that DVD and video game usage will increase as the writers strike continues, but viewers will still be in front of the set and ready to watch television programming when regular broadcast schedules return,” he said.

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