Magazines, Newspapers May Benefit from Writer's Strike

MindShare Survey: Consumers Plan to Change Viewing Habits

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- A prolonged writers' strike could send regular TV viewers to other media -- particularly print -- and might prompt marketers to reallocate their ad spending, according to a poll conducted by WPP Group's MindShare.
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One out of four adults surveyed said the strike will affect or change their viewing habits. That finding was highest among 35- to 44-year-olds and lowest among those 65 or older. The telephone poll, conducted during the weekend of Nov. 9 among 703 adults, found that 25% of the sample would "most likely" turn to books, magazines and newspapers if a favorite show was not on the air. Meanwhile, 13% said they would "watch whatever comes on at the time my usual TV show is on," and 12% indicated they would watch DVDs or pre-recorded videos.

The survey could lend ballast to marketers' greatest concern, that a prolonged strike will send significant numbers of consumers into the arms of other venues for entertainment and information, thereby weakening the power of TV -- which has long captured the majority of U.S. ad spending.

Even though 69% of the sample was aware of the continuing writers' strike, which commenced Nov. 5, consumer attitudes at present are largely hypothetical, noted Tata Sato, managing partner, director-insights at MindShare. After all, many networks continue to show original episodes. At present, only original late-night programming has been largely curtailed, with favorites including "The Colbert Report" and "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" being forced into repeats.

Should the strike continue, she added, consumer attitudes may become more pronounced, particularly about whether viewers will simply acquiesce and watch whatever is on the air at when an original episode of a favorite program was once slotted to run. MindShare expects to continue its consumer survey and advise clients accordingly. The media firm works on behalf of advertisers including Unilever, Sprint and American Express.

An early favorite
The respondents' selection of print as an early favorite alternative could prompt bigger issues for advertisers. While TV is a broad-based medium, most print is not. Magazines and newspapers are not able to offer marketers different kinds of content at different times of the day.

Respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 -- a prized demographic among advertisers -- said they were most likely to read a book, magazine or newspaper (19%); watch DVDs (11%); go to the internet (10%); or listen to music or the radio (7%). Selection of the internet was greatest among younger consumers and declined among older respondents, with only 4% of respondents 55 and up saying they would check out the web.

At present, consumers have a very high "forgiveness factor," said Ms. Sato. Many say they would return to TV if a strike forced cessation of original episodes of their favorites. Among respondents, 73% said they would "continue or go back to watching the show on a daily basis"; 12% said they "may not watch anymore"; and 8% said they "definitely won't watch."
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