Writers Strike Sped Viewer Shift From Broadcast to Cable

Mar 26, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The Writers Guild of America strike helped to accelerate the shift of viewers from broadcast to cable, according to an analysis of Nielsen data by Turner Broadcasting.
Jack Wakshlag, chief research officer at Turner, said that before the strike began to affect broadcast programming, live ratings among viewers 18 to 49 were down 12%. During the first quarter, those losses grew to 15%.
Those broadcast losses came on top of a record-setting 11% decline in adults 18 to 49 last season, he added.
Ad-supported cable picked up nearly all of the viewers the broadcast networks lost, Mr. Wakshlag said. During the first quarter, 35 cable networks showed increases of 10% or more.
As original scripted shows return to the broadcast networks, Mr. Wakshlag said he expected broadcast viewing to be down about 15% to 16% in April and 12% in May, leaving the broadcasters down 14% to 15% for the season.
Those figures should have an impact on the upfront ad market.
“It’s going to be a real interesting upfront,” Mr. Wakshlag said. “You can’t duck a 15% loss. You can’t say we’ll bring it back in broadband.”
For the season to date, total time spent watching TV by total viewers and adults 18-49 was up from last year, even in homes with Internet access.
Turner said USA Network was the top cable network during prime time in the first quarter of 2008 among adults 18 to 49, adults 25 to 54 and total viewers.
Turner’s TBS was No. 1 among adults 18 to 34 and chalked up the best quarter in that demo ever for an ad-supported cable network. Both TBS and USA topped The CW in that young-adult demo.
Nickelodeon was tops in total viewers over the full day.
Among the networks posting the biggest first-quarter gains among adults 18 to 49 were BBC America, up 109%; Nick at Nite, up 40%; WE, up 40%; Investigation Discovery (the former Discovery Times Channel, which changed its name Jan. 27), up 40%; and ESPN News, up 40%.
Losing ground in the quarter were ESPN Classic, down 47%; SoapNet, down 15%; Discovery, down 12%; and Great American Country, down 10%.
The top new shows in the quarter among total viewers were MTV’s “Best Dance Crew,” History’s “Ax Men,” Discovery’s “Human Body,” Sci Fi’s “Ghost Hunters International” and Comedy Central’s “Root of All Evil.”


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