Potential WGA Strike: What might happen to programming options


It will be interesting if the strike does happen, as it will almost be like a test lab of what viewers are going to do. Will they go to the web and look at different sites?  Will it be a boon for syndication?

"I really think syndication could get a bit of an increase on this," Steve Lanzano, MPG COO, says. "A lot of the networks, to maintain themselves, could go to a lot of live sports. Which is why clients who may not have a direct male demo, have been going more and more into live sports."

These are live ratings points, very little C3. Valentine’s Day, Easter holidays–for a lot of retail advertisers these are very important holidays and they need the ratings points. So retailers may look at alternative programming that’s going to give them live ratings points. The premium will be driven way up.
 Another factor will be overseas companies-a lot of programming emanates from Europe, BBC is a biggie. A lot of networks will see what they can do with these companies to get something new and original on the air.

Jason Kanefsky, MPG SVP/National Broadcast, is a bit pessimistic about the strike, concluding there will be no resolution at COB yesterday, as some have been speculating: "At the end of the day, over 90% have already approved the strike. The whole DVD issue is a huge money maker for the networks and producers-it’s how they’re making money now. Otherwise, they’re not making as much money as they used to. The marketplace is strong, but you can’t count on that year in and year out. Their ratings point goals are diminished, which means their ability to create dollars is diminished. And on top of that, most of the stuff the writers are writing, really isn’t all that good. Look at "Viva Laughlin" as an example."

Remember Jeff Zucker at NBC mentioned last year the 8-9 time frame period would go reality or a cheap production, because they can’t afford a to put in a  multi-million dollar event every night-the unit costs don’t allow for it.

Kanefsky is telling clients rating points are already down 10%–forget C3, the ratings are down, and it may be partly because we are going into daylight savings later. They will get a better read during Nov. seeps and when there is no baseball on. "But as we stand today, the network situation is dire and this strike will only make it worse."

Some agencies tell us they are already telling our clients they are going to be very, very careful on what they accept as make-goods. They’re trying to get as many ratings points as they can, and are slightly over-buying in Q1.

"We know we’re going to have less," says Kanefsky. "If we end up owning 1,000 ratings points, there’s no chance in hell we’re going to actually deliver. So we’re trying to cast some forward momentum and at least own more than we needed. So when we under-deliver, we’ll be closer to the number than when we started out."

TVBR/RBR observation: Word has it the Daytime soaps are poised to hire non-union "scab" writers. As Carat’s Shari Anne Brill pointed out to us yesterday (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. Kanefsky 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 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.