US Writers' Strike Casts Shadow over TV Ad Forecasts

10 January 2008

NEW YORK: The long-running US film and TV writers' strike could have far-reaching consequences for the current year's adspend figures, warns Jon Swallen, research chief at TNS Media Intelligence.

Although TNS says overall adspend is likely to rise 4.2% year-on-year, the strike and its paralysing effect on the television networks could dent numbers if a resolution is not found soon.

Declares Swallen: "The longer it lasts the worse it gets for the networks."

TV adspend is forecast to rise by 2.7% during 2008, driven by political campaigning and the summer's Beijing Olympics.

But, as new episodes of drama series and comedy shows dry up due to a lack of scripts (and their time slots filled by reality programs), Swallen believes the networks could suffer a variety of consequences.

  • Viewers will reach for the remote control and switch off the TV altogether;

  • Or, more likely: "People [would] change the channel and watch something on cable. As we've seen over an extended period of time, audience erosion from broadcast to cable has implications for ad spending on each side of the ledger. Broadcast's loss could be cable's gain."
TNS predicts that online advertising will benefit most this year, with a rise in spend of 14.4%, while newspapers and radio are likely to witness a fall of 1% and 0.3% respectively.

Radio is facing major upheaval, according to Swallen, as a result of the 'will it, won't it' adoption of Arbitron's controversial Portable People Meter audience measurement system.

He adds: "[Radio] has certainly rearranged its entire deck of cards in terms of demographics, stations and particular ad categories. Now they've sort of forced it all into a day of reckoning [with PPM]."

Data sourced from Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff