Art and Entertainment


Writers’ Strike: Networks Face Harsh Reality … TV

December 11, 2007 08:40 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
As the standoff between the Writer’s Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture Television Producers drags on, major networks plan to lure viewers back to the small screen with a flood of new reality television shows.

30-Second Summary

On Friday, Dec. 7, negotiations between writers and studios stalled again, prolonging the already 5-week-old dispute over how writers should be paid for online content.

Since it began on Nov. 5, the writers’ strike has forced most of the staple late night comedy shows to air reruns. Although some prime time programs have had a stockpile of scripts to fall back on, The New York Times reports that those reserves are drying up and studios are looking for new reality shows to fill the prime time gap.

The four major networks—ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox—are planning a 50 percent increase in reality programming, with as many as 27 hours a week scheduled for the first quarter of 2008.

These shows are relatively cheap to produce, and generally do not employ union-represented writers. In fact, it was those selling points that attracted studios to the show “Cops” during the 1988 WGA strike.

“That's when Fox bought 'Cops,' because a series with no narrator, no host, no script, no re-enactments sounded very good to them at the time,” show creator John Langley told the Associated Press.

Reality sleeper hits aside, networks may find themselves having to woo some of their more Internet-savvy viewers back to the tube.

According to Andy Morris, partner and principal at the New York-based public relations firm Morris & King Company, younger consumers “are already snacking on” Web-based alternative media. “The feeling is, there may be a real upside for Web-based content creators."

Headline Links: The coming flood of reality TV

Background: The strike hits network pocketbooks

Columnist Nikki Finke, who writes about the strike on her blog Deadline Hollywood Daily, talks to NPR about how the strike is financially impacting the networks: “Game shows and reality shows … they’re not going to have the same ad rates [as late night shows. Networks] have lost a ton of money on the late night advertising that has gone out the window, because here’s one of the facts of life that your audience may or may not know: there’s such a thing as ‘give-backs.’ If a network promises [advertisers] a certain audience, and a certain size of that audience, they have to make good on it. So if suddenly you have a sea of repeats of Jay Leno and David Letterman, that means that you’re going to have to give back money. Now the moguls are going around and saying ‘We’re going to have a great fourth quarter for 2007.’ But that’s a little like robbing Peter to pay Paul, because they are going to have to pay for it dearly in ’08. That’s something that I don’t know if shareholders of these big media companies are aware of.”

Reactions: Viewers look to the Web

Historical Context: The 1988 strike and ‘Cops’

Related Topics: Strike stifles movie promos


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