Prime Time for Reading? Survey Looks at Viewers' Plans During Strike

By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, November 15, 2007

This Hollywood writers' strike is already so huge universities are doing studies on it.

Like Pepperdine University, in Malibu, which discovered that 84 percent of people in the United States know TV and film writers are on strike.

And yet, even though luminaries like Ray Romano and Kathy Griffin have turned out to march with picketing writers this week, 75 percent of people in the United States are not very concerned or not concerned at all about the TV-viewing implications of a TV writers' strike, according to the study, conducted online Nov. 7-9 by the market research firm Synovate for the university's Graziadio School of Business and Management.

A full 40 percent of Americans said that if the broadcast networks substitute reruns for new episodes due to the strike, they would instead spend more time watching reruns.

You're gonna want to reread that sentence, so we'll pause here a second.

Even more people -- 42 percent -- said that if the networks have to resort to reruns to fill their schedules they would read more.

Interestingly, the study says, women were more likely than men to pretend, er, answer that they would read more if the TV landscape becomes littered with repeat programming.

A full 51 percent of women gave that answer; I'm guessing some of them may have sniffed a bit, too. Only 33 percent of men said so; sadly, the study does not say how many of those 33 percent of males said they'd read more because they thought it would help them get lucky with the woman in the room with them while they were answering the online questions.

Reading being an old folks' pastime, people age 55 and older were about twice as likely to say they'd spend more time reading as 18-to-24-year-olds, while the 18-to-24-year-olds were more likely to say they'd rent more movies or play video games, the study says.

And 13 percent of the people said they'd spend more time going to the movies. Of course, if the strike drags on, there will be no movies to go to because those writers are striking too, but the study didn't get into that.

Only 14 percent of the people who played along admitted they'd watch more reality TV programs.

That's exactly the same percentage as said reruns wouldn't change anything. Wait -- aren't they the same as the people who said they'd watch more reruns?

An impressive 63 percent of participants said they'd support the writers in response to the question: "The dispute between writers and producers is mainly that writers want a share of profits (royalties) when shows they have written are sold on DVD or on the Internet or downloaded to cellphones or other electronic media. Whose side of this dispute are you more likely to lean toward: the writers or the producers?"

Only 4 percent said they'd side with the "producers" -- a.k.a. the networks and studios. A whopping 33 percent said they were not sure.

And 47 percent said writers deserved the largest share of royalty payments -- ahead of actors, producers or directors.

Fortunately for the Writers Guild of America, the Pepperdine study came out the day after actors were asked to join the picket lines with the writers.

Barbara Brogliatti, the spokeswoman for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (a.k.a. the networks and studios), said the study results were to be expected. "It is very hard to keep complex issues at the forefront of the debate when you're competing with the pageantry of celebrity picketers."

Another poll was floating around yesterday, conducted in the Los Angeles metropolitan area by SurveyUSA, which similarly found that 69 percent of adults familiar with the strike support the writers, and that a mere 8 percent were taking the studios' side, while a still large 22 percent were not sure.

Patric M. Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America, West, was ready for his close-up:

"We're gratified by this tremendous show of nationwide support. These polls prove that the public understands what is at stake here. Our fight represents the fight of all American workers for a fair deal."

CUT! That's a wrap . . . .

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company