WGA and SAG Strikes Change the TV and Advertising Landscapes
Assoc. Director of Marketing Insights & Content
Oct 3, 2023
As summer turns into fall and the air gets crisper, the draw of cozying up in front of the TV becomes even stronger for most Amerians. But, with the WGA strike recently ending and the SAG strike still ongoing, the usual slate of new fall shows may leave something to be desired. Ever since the strike began in May, the big question on everyone’s mind has been what will happen to my shows?
As seen in the New York Times, Associated Press, and CNN, we took a look at consumer sentiment and trends that could be indicative of what’s in store for networks, streamers, and advertisers feeling the burn from paused development.
Majority of Americans are aware and supportive of strikes
Among those in the entertainment and advertising industries, the WGA and SAG strikes have been top of mind - but how does the general public feel? Data from Samba TV’s survey with global research firm Harris X, which polled more than 2,500 U.S. adults, indicates that Amerians are generally supportive of the strike and are following the news. 74% of adults say they’re heard of the strike, and among those people about three-quarters support it. Gen Z and millennials are most supportive, at about 80% of both generations standing behind the writers and actors on strike.
Although people are generally supportive of the strikes, they are concerned about their favorite shows being delayed or canceled. In fact, two-thirds of adults across all generations believe it is likely that their favorite shows will be delayed or canceled due to the strikes. 74% of Gen Z and 80% of millennials consider that to be important.
Late night TV is already feeling the burn
The TV landscape is sure to be impacted by the strikes, and one area we’ve already seen shift is late-night TV. Without new jokes and material, many of the top late-night shows have gone off the air (though will be coming back soon). As a result, four of the five leaders in late night have seen double-digit decreases in reach during the late fringe time slot, with some losing as much as 50% of their audience during those hours.
“It remains to be seen how late night will rebound to its previous relevance.” - Samba TV Co-founder and CEO Ashwin Navin
Specifically, Comedy Central, ABC, CBS, and NBC all tracked double-digit decreases in average daily reach during the late fringe between May 2023 and July 2023 compared with the prior year. The three broadcast networks each saw declines between about 46%-50%, impacted by Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, and Jimmy Kimmel shows all ceasing new airings. With such dramatic shifts, it remains to be seen how late night will rebound to its previous prominence.
How might this continue to impact the TV viewership and advertising landscapes?
Over the past few months we’ve seen the strikes inflict more pain on the TV distribution model, which was already trying to find footing in the post-pandemic environment. This has impacted the volume and quality of new production, placing more dependency on library content and existing franchises.
In this shifting landscape we’ve seen streamers and TV networks smartly tapping into their deeper content libraries to drum up viewership during this lull in new content. Old favorites like “Suits” on Netflix rose to the top of the charts week after week in the summer, and more recently “The Wolf of Wall Street” had its own moment. Similarly, old faithfuls like “Wheel of Fortune” have been on top of linear TV charts.
In addition, the strikes are ushering in new norms for data transparency across the board. The media industry has long operated in the dark about audience data, but the tide shifting in the direction of data transparency may change that. More public viewership stats will level the playing field and improve the quality of production decisions, ultimately making for better content. Viewers will win from that improved experience, and advertisers will win from increased ability to see the unique attributes of the audiences for each platform and show.
"Ultimately, the one thing that everyone in the TV landscape has been chasing is transparency, including writers and actors needing to know how many people are watching their work in order to properly value themselves. The outcome of the WGA strike is a meaningful step towards a much more level playing field between streaming platforms, studios, and the talent themselves." - Samba TV Co-founder and CEO Ashwin Navin
It is Samba’s mission to democratize data that improves the quality of decisions on all sides of the media industry. With networks, advertisers, and viewers already feeling the impact of the WGA and SAG strikes, we are optimistic that we will see more information available over the next few years that levels the playing field, improves the quality of production decisions, and makes better content. The viewers will ultimately win from that improved experience.
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