Andy Donchin on WGA strike fallout; NBC moves


Andy Donchin, Carat Americas Director of Broadcast Buying, spoke out about the latest issued surrounding the WGA strike and what fallout it has caused—including the recent statements from NBCU CEO Jeff Zucker that NBC will not be doing any upfront presentations and has all but cut funding for pilots.

What do you think about Zucker killing most pilots?

“Instead of throwing a bunch of concepts out there, if they could concentrate on a limited amount of shows that they could devote more attention/script attention to, then I’m all for it. Eventually, the model has to change when 80 or 90% of the new shows all fail. That’s not only about how good the shows are, but all of the fragmentation that’s out there now and all of the other competition. I think we’d be heading there with or without a writers strike, but I think we’re heading towards changing it up a little…and I think that’s good.”

Do you think Zucker’s decisions are going to spread to the other networks?

“Yes. If I were to predict, I would say yes. I think people are going to start talking about it now, which they are. I think there could be some changes as early as this upfront presentation—this May. I think you’re going to see some big changes as we go into future years…and the advertisers and agencies are totally on board with this because we didn’t want these lavish upfront presentations that went on forever. It served more of a purpose to the Wall Street Community and the press community than the buyers. We wanted them more condensed and focused. Last year they made them no more than an hour each. But we want more one on one meanings and information exchanged between clients and agencies and the network. I don’t think the upfront buying process is ever going to go away, but we do have to tweak that too. The deals now are obviously more complicated today, involving so many different platforms. We can’t do all of that in one given night.”

What about the WGA strike and how clients are concerned?

“With out a doubt they are concerned. Selfishly, this is the last thing I needed. But we’re staying impartial and we’re hoping they can get something settled—and get back to hopefully fresh, original programs. I happen to think TV is resilient and people—just because their favorite show isn’t on because of the writers strike—it’s not like you’re going to abandon television. But, that being the case, we pay a lot of money for these shows, i.e. Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives and CSI and 30 Rock, because we know they reach an engaged audience. We want to get those shows back on the air.”

Is scatter this year really going to be a disaster because of all the upfront makegoods?

“Yes, it takes available inventory that was usually for sale and now they have to give it away. So it definitely tightens up the marketplace. It was tight to start with without the strike, so you can only imagine what it’s going to be like. To get in the scatter market, many things are very expensive. But my number one concern right now is we don’t want to take money off of TV to put it somewhere else because of the writers strike—we want to try to keep it on TV. So our big jobs are getting appropriate makegoods.”