So, what has the strike cost the industry so far? We are in a new season with much less viable programming content. What do agencies estimate this will cost the networks in midseason dollars?
Well, according to WGA blog site UnitedHollywood.com, AMPTP’s refusal to negotiate has costed the LA economy about 707 billion by the time you read this. Studios and talent agencies are beginning to lay off staff this year and losing 160 million per week from mothballed TV shows, according to reports.
As the strike by Writers Guild of America members moves into its third month, Warner Bros has told more than 1,000 employees in its LA studios that an unspecified number of layoffs will be announced later in the month.
The Innovative Agency, one of the first talent agencies to make cuts, has laid off seven of 65+ staff in its LA office.
The scripted TV production bix has all but stopped in LA, excepting ABC’s October Road, still in progress. 62 have been reportedly halted due to the strike.
Said Shari Anne Brill, Carat USA VP/director of programming: “I will tell you that there will be way more makegoods. That will cost money, and they were put in a pretty good makegood situation even before the strike. NBC got hit in Q4 because a lot of their shows nose dived.”
Are you taking these makegoods? You can only do so many, and they’re getting placed in lower and lower-quality programming. “Then that’s not really acceptable replacement programming, then, is it? The problem is going to start showing up in Q1 and definitely in Q2, because the pool of acceptable replacement programming will have dried up. As the low rent reality shows come in, where can you put people? You pay a lot of money with an expectation that you’re going to be in quality content. So I don’t know how many people will think ‘American Gladiators’ is acceptable for ‘Heroes.’
How are buyers going to make these judgment calls for clients? “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, but we’re watching it very closely. Most will likely not leave network, nor will they stop advertising. There is nothing that even remotely touches network television—specifically prime—for building reach and impact. We will be working with the strong relationships that we’ve forged as a company with our salespeople. You endeavor to do the best you can on behalf of your clients.”
Brill thinks this is really going to start hurting the networks because they will not be able to sell a lot of scatter because they’re going to have to save a lot of units to make up for the shortfall and take care of the upfront advertisers first. “And you know what—when they get hurt economically, that’s when they will go back to the table,” she added. “A strike will not be settled by public relations. It’s going to get resolved when one side suffers more economically than the other. And that is the reason that the Golden Globes didn’t get a strike waiver—it was to cause economic pain.”
TVBR observation: Who knows what CBS will have to give back to P&G on The People’s Choice awards Tuesday. P&G was the sole national sponsor. On another note, we’re hearing the AMPTP solidarity may be caving sooner rather than later. Yes, smaller companies like Worldwide Pants are striking lone deals, but the union of big studio and network conglomerates at AMPTP may start to develop a weak link or two—one of them may cave and strike a lone deal out of desperation. NBCU may be that one—the network is suffering and they were going to use The Golden Globes as a big forum to push “Charlie Wilson’s War” (Universal Pictures).