it’s the day before christmas and there is still no end in sight to the writers strike. although some of the talk shows are heading back without their writers, the next year of television looks to be bleak with reality tv and mid-season replacements.
for those just joining us, the Writers’ Guild of America is on strike following a breakdown in contract negotiations with the media companies over royalty payments for digital distribution. basically, in their current contracts the writers get paid for writing the shows and then a predetermined percentage for syndication and dvd sales. the writers want a cut of the digital pie, ie shows that sold on amazon’s unbox, aol, itunes, walmart, xbox marketplace, mobile phone viewing and services like comcast’s on demand, the media companies are claiming that there’s no way to determine the value of the online/digital model and that they’re not making money from that particular business model, but as this youtube video by some of the writers of the daily show point out there seems to be a disconnect somewhere. the last writers’ strike happened in during March and August 1988 and cost the movie and television industry approximately $500 million and was over reduced residuals and overseas re-airs.
with no resolution in sight, most of the shows that have gone on hiatus over the holidays are not likely to be back before late 2008, possibly 2009 and there isn’t likely to be any new scripted television before 2009. new shows are pitched during the middle of the year at the dog & pony show called the upfronts, where the networks show advertisers and affiliates, how well their shows have done during sweeps and present what their ideas are for the coming year, but unless the writers’ strike is resolved quickly there isn’t going to be time to write and shoot pilots before the upfronts. with tons of money on the line most people are wondering why the media companies don’t just settle with the writers and get on with the business of television, the answer interestingly lies with the Screen Actors’ Guild, whose contracts are up for negotiation in June 2008 and are likely to be requesting the same concessions as the writers’ guild thus cutting into the ‘dwindling profit margins’ of the media companies.
according to this list, there are only a few scripted series with episodes left to air and most of the soap operas are likely to run out of new episodes by the end of January which may sound the death knell for the genre with reality programming, game shows and daytime chat filling the void. with the exception of talk shows, prime time programming is likely to follow the same path, it’s going to be interesting to see how viewers respond, particularly during the sweeps.
don’t forget to read mark’s take on Babel, here.