Nielsen: Cable, Internet Benefited from WGA Strike

The writers’ strike didn't drive viewers away in droves, and the mix of new shows and repeats during that three-month stretch was not appreciably different from the same November-through-mid-February period the year before. But cable and the Internet were still beneficiaries of the work stoppage.

Those were among the conclusions relayed to stations by Nielsen in a white paper Wednesday.

According to Nielsen, live-plus-seven-day data, which include time-shifted viewing, for the strike showed little change in TV-usage trends from the same period in 2007. And the number of original broadcast-network shows versus repeats was down only "slightly" from the same time a year ago, from 67.8% original in November 2006-February 2007 to 63.4% over the same period in 2007-08.

Viewers surveyed by Nielsen said they spent more time with alternative forms of entertainment. For example, Nielsen found that time spent with online video and movie sites rose significantly, increasing an average of almost 18 minutes.

Ad-supported cable benefited, the company added, as some viewers shifted from broadcast TV. While English-language-broadcast viewing dropped 2.6% during the strike, ad-supported cable viewing increased 1.5%, the only one of seven viewing categories -- PBS, premium pay, Spanish-language broadcasting among them -- that did not lose viewership during the strike.

Local-TV-station late-night newscasts lost viewership along with their network lead-ins, but they regained that and even a little more once the strike was over.

In terms of viewer awareness of the strike, Nielsen found that 100% of the 800 respondents to a survey knew about the strike, with 77% supporting the writers either strongly (55%) or somewhat (22%).

For all of the results, click here.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.