Carat surveys effect of writers’ strike on US viewers

Using online questionnaires, the media giant determined that, at least so far, the majority of prime-time watchers are consuming the same amount of TV as before writers hit the picket lines.

Three months into the strike by members of the Writers Guild of America, American television viewers have yet to desert prime time. That’s the main finding of an online survey of consumers’ media habits and attitudes resulting from the strike.

NYC-HQ’d media giant Carat queried 1,000 prime-time viewers aged 18 and up. Although all respondents live south of the border, the survey’s findings most likely apply to Canadians, whose TV choices closely resemble those of American viewers.

Carat’s survey found that 72% of respondents are watching the same amount of prime-time TV as before the strike, while 25% are watching less and 3% are watching more. But in addition to their typical television viewing, consumers are changing what they watch during prime time. They are willing to watch different genres, plus repeat episodes, and to channel surf to hunt for different programs. Additionally, they are open to expanding their use of other entertainment options such as online, DVDs, magazines and video games.

The top choice of those who ‘would not’ or ‘may not’ continue to watch their favourite shows in repeats is to go online (54%), followed by channel surfing until they find something else interesting to watch (51%).

The agency intends to continue the dialogue with consumers every few weeks ‘to stay on top of what they’re doing and to examine the new opportunities that arise as a result of the strike,’ says Michelle Lynn, SVP, Carat Insight.

Other highlights of the survey include:

• 16% said they would continue to watch favourite TV shows in repeats for the next 3-6 months. Among those viewers, 21% said they would never lose interest.

• Among those who said they would not (24%) or may not (60%) continue to watch their favourite shows in repeats (total of 84%), 54% said they would go online instead; 51% said they would channel surf until they found something else interesting to watch instead; 42% would watch rented DVDs or buy DVDs; 38% would watch DVDs they currently own; 32% would watch other prime-time shows they are familiar with; 30% would read magazines; 20% would play video games.

• Of the 54% of viewers who said they would go online instead, 6% said they would go to TV networks’ websites to watch shows or parts of TV shows (webisodes/episode players, etc.) that they would or would not normally watch.

• 81% said they would browse the Internet for topics of interest.

• Nearly half of all younger age viewers (18-34) said they would visit social networking sites, while the same was said for only 16% and 8% of age 35-54 and 55+-year-olds, respectively.