With Writers Guild of America writers poised to strike as early as today, we asked media agencies: If this strike happens, what would it mean to buying, planning, make-goods, etc. How would this affect business in general in the first month, second month and beyond? Might this flow dollars into radio for clients and agencies that aren’t thrilled with the options presented by the networks?
Steve Lanzano, MPG COO, tells RBR they are already giving clients some contingency plans, but the bottom line is what the length of the strike is going to be. Most don’t think it will last a month, but if it does, indeed, there will be really no big hits. Late Night will take a bit of a hit, but it won’t be great. But a lot of the shows have stockpiled their scripts.
"But when you start to get into Jan-Feb and there’s no new programming…already that marketplace is looking at significant premiums in terms of scatter," Lanzano admits. "…there is going to be so much less inventory in the marketplace and clearly the market is going to get tighter. There are going to be more and more make-goods."
Word has it the Daytime soaps are poised to hire scab writers. As Carat’s Shari Anne Brill pointed out yesterday in our TVBR epaper (10/31/07 TVBR #213), the Teamsters (set crews, etc.) may stage a solidarity strike with the WGA-scab writers increase the chances of that happening ten-fold. Jason Kanefsky, MPG SVP/National Broadcast, says if there is a unity strike, "You might as well turn the key off. Cable becomes primetime. And it really becomes about acquisitions."
What NBC can do is move inventory from their cable networks like Project Runway or Burn Notice, onto the broadcast network. Fox is a global company as well and can move stuff over from FX, etc. Broadcast nets have plenty of show archives they can move into primetime as well. But as Kanefsky pointed out, when he starts to see "Love Boat" airing, he’s going to be worried.
If all this goes down, we’re going to see some real creative stuff come down from the programming folks on the fly to create momentum. They will, in essence, become DJs of the TV airwaves. An Aaron Spelling theme night, etc…But what will advertisers pay-especially the top-tier ones? All upfront deals will go out the window. It’s very important that the broadcast TV networks treat the agencies and advertisers with kid gloves if this goes down-because it will come back to haunt them in the next upfront. Overall, a strike may help all other forms of media-especially radio broadcast-with its reach, frequency and immediacy options for advertisers.