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Radio's Silver Lining: Research Identifies Writers/Actors Strike As Potential Catalyst for Industry

As Hollywood's simultaneous strikes – of the Writers Guild of America, and Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists – drag on and significantly impact traditional TV viewing, with reruns and unscripted programming making up most of the current fare, results of a MARU/Matchbox study show that eight in 10 Americans are aware of the strikes, and that nearly 30% say they will watch less TV this fall, replaced by streaming services and audio.

The survey, commissioned by the Cumulus Media/Westwood One Audio Active Group and conducted among more than 1,000 Americans late in August, found that 81% of adults 18+ are aware of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, with awareness highest among older respondents (95% of those 65+) and lowest among the youngest segment (67% of 18-34s). Most notably, 92% of heavy linear TV viewers, 83% of heavy AM/FM radio listeners, and 81% of heavy podcast listeners show awareness.

According to the analysis of the study in Westwood One's weekly blog, 27% of those aware of the strikes say they will watch less TV this fall due to the lack of original scripted shows. “[While] it's very hard for consumers to predict future behavior, it does indicate there's going to be some softness in TV viewing levels on the linear side this fall,” Cumulus Media/Westwood One Audio Active Group Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard says.

Among heavy linear TV viewers, meanwhile, a still-significant 22% say they will watch less TV in fall. “When folks are sitting on the couch and they're noticing all the game shows, reality [shows] or reruns, they could be going somewhere else,” Bouvard says.

The good news for radio from all this is that based on what participants say they'll be doing more of vs. watching TV, is that 68% say they'll listen to audio, including AM/FM, podcasts, or music on streaming services, second only to 92% watching video via streaming services. “Audio stands to be a significant beneficiary of the writers and actors strike,” Bouvard says.

As a result, the blog notes, this presents an opportunity for AM/FM radio to replace the reach lost from linear TV. Using media planning platform Nielsen Media Impact shows how reallocating 20% of a TV ad budget to radio increases reach of adults 25-54 anywhere from 48% to 125%.

“Radio makes your TV better,” Bouvard says. “No matter the size of a TV budget, shifting 20% of TV spend to AM/FM radio results in a massive increase in reach, for no change to the overall schedule investment.”

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