Despite Writers’ Strike, Late-Night Talk-Show Viewers Keep Watching TV

December 19, 2007

This article is included in these additional categories:

Broadcast & Cable | Media & Entertainment | Radio | Television

As the Hollywood writers’ strike enters its seventh week, the late-night talk shows are showing reruns – but the lack of new content doesn’t seem to be affecting viewers used to watching late-night TV, according to a new report by Integrated Media Measurement Inc. (IMMI).

Before the strike, regular late-night talk-show viewers watched an average of 21.7 minutes of late-night television; the average during the strike period was a “statistically identical” average of 20.8 minutes, according to IMMI.

Viewing-frequency-per-person data (see chart) indicates that after the strike began regular late-night viewers increased their program sampling, with the Leno and Letterman shows sampled more, suggesting that viewers looked around more than usual, likely for reruns they hadn’t before seen.

immi-late-night-talk-show-viewing-frequency-during-writers-strike.jpg

Among other findings:

  • Though viewers watched almost the same amount of television, they used their remotes 8% more, flipping around to watch a variety of programming, including syndicated sitcoms, movies, sports and news.
  • None of the individual shows migrated to picked up enough new viewers for their numbers to be statistically significant, however.
  • Although the number of late-night viewers watching late-night talk shows dropped somewhat as a result,  the number viewing late-night programming did not drop.
  • Nor did late-night watchers pursue other media-related or other activities, such as listening to radio, going to the movies, watching a DVD, reading a book or going to sleep, IMMI found.
  • For example, before the strike 24% listened to late night radio; 23% did so after the strike began.

“Despite the sudden halt of new talk shows caused by the writers’ strike, there was virtually no change in consumer behavior in that people still watched television,” said Amanda Welsh, head of research for Integrated Media Measurement Inc. “Watching late-night television is a habit, one that the data shows consumers could not break. Even though most went to other types of programming, the tendency to be in front of the television at that hour remained very strong.”

About the study: Using data from IMMI panel members in six cities, and comparing viewing patterns for the two weeks preceding the strike with the two weeks after, the research studied how regular late-night viewers responded to the reruns. Any panel member who had watched any of The Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report at least four times during the two-week period before the strike was classified a “regular” late-night viewer.

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