Couch potatoes still glued to TV during strike

Fri Apr 4, 2008 3:16am EDT
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By James Hibberd

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - During the recent Hollywood writers strike, TV fans barely left the couch.

According to a new study, strike-era viewers managed to increase the amount of time they spent watching DVDs, playing video games and surfing the Internet while watching as much television programming as before.

The findings are from a just-released Nielsen research study assessing the impact of the 100-day strike, which was settled almost two months ago.

The report concluded that the industrywide work stoppage lowered the average primetime total viewer ratings on the four major broadcast networks by 6.1 percent from the beginning of the walkoff in November to its conclusion in mid-February. (Data combine both live viewings as well as in the following seven days on digital recorders)

Yet when Nielsen examined the number of households using television (including watching daytime, video-on-demand, cable and other sources), the numbers showed a 0.5 percent increase during the strike.

So viewers might have watched fewer primetime hits, but they didn't use their television any less.

During the strike period, viewers also found time to watch even more DVDs (+17.4 percent), play more video games (+37.5 percent) and spend more time online than last year.

Furthermore, the study found network programmers were able to largely compensate for the strike, with the number of original broadcast shows vs. repeats down only 6.5 percent -- nearly the same percentage as the overall dip in primetime programming viewership.

Although broadcast viewers did flee to cable, their impact was relatively modest. Ad-supported basic cable viewing increased 1.4 percent during the strike.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

<p>Comedian, writer and actor Richard Belzer walks with supporters and members of the Writers Guild of America as they picket outside the News Corp building in New York December 4, 2007. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton</p>