If the WGA strike goes through, advertisers, agencies and networks would all be in some sort of turmoil-depending largely on how long the strike lasted. Remember, the strike in 1988 lasted for 154 days.
Shari Anne Brill, Carat USA VP/director of programming, wonders if "this economy could handle that." She notes the C3 ratings would be in trouble as well: "It makes it that much more severe, because this is the first year that we’ve switched to a currency metric, and we know that viewers don’t really stay tuned as much to repeat telecasts and reality shows the way they would to their favorite scripted drama. How would we deal with compensation for multiple airings, and of course on multiple platforms?"
How would the media agencies be able to solve the deals that have already been signed for the upfront, should not all of the campaigns’ reach, frequency and CPM goals be achievable?
It may not be just about figuring out make-goods. "I think we’re going to figure it out as it happens. We’re talking about a very different media environment from 1988. Today we have the digital outlets. But I think it still would be a mistake to pull out of network television because you still would get the better reach there than anywhere else.
Where else are you going to go?
There aren’t as many original scripted programs on cable-and cable launches them in the summer. There would be some fresh episodes of Nip/Tuck and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, but I don’t know if they’ve shot a full season."
Let’s say it is a long-lived strike leading into March, April or May. How would it affect the next upfront?
Says Brill: "I really don’t want to think that far. Hopefully there will be some agreement at the negotiating table and that won’t happen. The thought of it is just too gruesome [Yes, it’s Halloween today]. I don’t think anybody is well-served by dragging this out. I think everybody from viewers, raters, producers, studio owners and advertisers are all better served if everybody can come to an agreement."