The TV Addict’s Take on the Writer’s Strike

At midnight tonight, this TV Addict’s worst fear becomes a reality.

The Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) will vote to authorize a strike in an effort to get what they believe is a larger share of the profits from their work with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

Yet rather than choose a side, spell out the arguments, or debate the finer-points of the key issues [after-all, isn’t that what Variety’s for?] . This TV Addict is simply going to say two words.

This Sucks.

As a self-proclaimed television addict and lover of all things small screen. The grim reality of the situation is that when it comes to the increasingly likely WGA work stoppage, there are no winners, only losers. With the biggest losers being us —dedicated television fans across the globe.

If a strike is authorized, we can immediately say goodbye to late-night staples that rely on a writing staff. So bid a fond farewell to Jon, Steven, Conan, Dave, Jimmy, Craig and Jay. It could be a while before they grace us with original material again.

Next on the chopping block comes the big stuff: prime-time shows. While the impact won’t be immediately noticeable as most shows have enough episodes in the can to carry them through the new year, viewers can expect a lengthy strike, which mean reruns and reality become the norm come January.

Said NBC U Entertainment co-Chairman Ben Silverman in this morning’s Variety, “The most likely outcome is more news and more reality.” Translation: we hope you’re a big fan of THE APPRENTICE.

Now I know what you’re thinking. More Donald Trump on television, could life get any worse?

This TV Addict’s certainly thinks so. More Donald is simply the tip of the hairpiece… umm… I mean iceberg.

The real bad news comes when you start to factor in the real long-term effects that a prolonged strike will have on an already ailing industry.

Think audience levels are low now. Imagine what will happen when the industry shuts down for six months.

According to a recent study, the WGA strike of 1988 led to a 9 percent drop in audience shares when scripted programs finally returned to the airwaves.

Ponder that number for a second. Nine percent of American television fans walked away from their sets in 1988, many never to return. And this was in a time before youtube, Myspace, Xboxes, Wii and all the other distractions of slightly-more-modern life.

God help us all if people realize there are other forms of entertainment outside of the living room.

Need further proof that a strike will have a negative impact on the industry? Look no further than the Trial of the (last) Century. When O.J. Simpson’s murder trial pushed soaps off the airwaves for endless weeks, the daytime industry sustained a near-crippling blow. “Frankly, daytime has never recovered from the O.J. trial,” says Richard M. Simms, executive editor of Soaps in Depth magazine. He goes on to point out that the inevitable audience falloff caused by a strike could create a crisis situation for the networks. “One of the biggest problems will be the fact that networks guarantee a certain audience to advertisers. If they don’t meet those guarantees — which they won’t if a strike knocks original programming off the air — it will mean millions of dollars in what are called ‘make goods.’ Every week that the strike goes on will cost the networks millions upon millions of dollars.”

And in the end, as always, money is the bottom line. For those on strike who want more, for the networks who will lose more… it’s all about the benjamins.

Are writer’s willing to risk the future of their industry over a few measly percentage points on the back end of an iTunes download? Are networks and producers willing to risk further alienating the television audience by taking away our LOST, 24 and GREY’S ANATOMY and replacing them with WHO WANTS TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE BACHELOR ON TEMPTATION ISLAND?

If we’re to believe the rumblings threatening to shake up the industry, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Which is unfortunate, because less quality television can only mean bad news for an already floundering industry.

The WGA and AMPTP should both realize that this is a seminal moment in the history of television. In this era of digital uncertainty, both parties should put aside their differences and work together for the betterment of the industry as a whole.

Okay, so I promised I wouldn’t take sides. But the side I’m taking is that of the audience. The side that both the WGA and the AMPTP can’t ignore

After-all, without us, there’s no money to fight over.

And let’s face it, if there’s one thing Hollywood understands, it’s that money talks.

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  • Jon Stewart and Colbert would be off the air as would SNL… but Dave, Jay and Conan should be okay. People will still tune in to watch them because even without a script they are funny. They would have different shows for sure but you can still drop the monologues and skits for more guests and live music.. and people will watch..

    You took the side of the viewer…Assuming a strike does happen I’m going to take the side of the rest of the industry this is going to kill. The little guys who do lighting, craft services and trucking and the rest of the stuff behind the shows. For starters any of those people in unions will feel pressured to not cross the WGA picket lines and then when work does stop they dont have jobs…

    I don’t pretend to know everything about this strike but the writers of TV better sure know what they are doing… scripted TV has died off a little each year and now they want to put a halt to it and let the networks find new ways to capture audiences. I know I wouldn’t bet my career on people not watching the new American Gladiators or even classic shows in rerun. The networks clearly hold a lot of the cards in this…

    As viewers we won’t feel much of this for a long time. Several shows are done filming their entire seasons, others are well into the second half of their episodes not to mention a slew of shows that have not aired yet that have episodes in the bank. I’d guess we’ll be looking at March before lineups really start to change.

  • NikkiHolly

    I second that. it really sucks. >:(

  • David

    Well said, Daniel.

  • Linda B.

    very good article TVa.

    I wonder if Lost will start early next year as planned, or if this will impact that. I’m sure they have a good chunk of the season written already.

  • CC

    So we’re fine until January and then no good new scripted tv until you think Fall maybe? longer?….

  • OJ did kill daytime. I was there. Even I didn’t go back for years and now, daytime is still not what it use to be. NBC has DAYS OF OUR LIVES. That’s it. What replaced Passions? Two more hours of Today. Yea, like we need that. As for primetime, this does suck. Networks will have more reality than we can stand. I won’t watch that.

  • Carl

    I am my TV addict myself. That’s why I like good written TV. I think writers are not honored enougth anyways and the least they should get is good money for their great work. Blame it on the Studios, who don’t pay good enougth, not on the writers, who do an amazing job – most of the time.

  • Jay

    This is my worst nigthmare!! This can’t happen!!!! Nooooooooo!!!

  • courtney

    Very well written & thought out. I guess it’s not looking too promising that the strike won’t happen at this point.

    I guess I’m settling in for a long cold Canadian winter of watching hockey…

  • Should there be a strike Lost is still set to run starting in Feb…. the only question will be if they get to do the full 16 episode season.. I believe they are through ep 10 as of Monday but the story arc would call for them to run all 16 or just 8… Meaning 8 would be the better season finale then 10…

  • Jillian

    I had heard the rumors. Yikes. Like others have mentioned, I’m most keen to know if LOST will remain intact. Although, I was really enjoying Life and would hate to see it nipped in the bud.

    I wonder if we’d see more international television programs?

  • Josh Emerson

    Jillian brings up the one part of the strike that actually sounds kinda good. It’s been rumored for a while that the networks would turn to international shows and cable shows to fill the schedule, which could actually be interesting to see. I’d check out some British and Canadian shows, and I’d love to see a show like The 4400 catch a break by getting aired on NBC.

    I say this now, but I’ll miss my shows right after they leave the air. They can’t take my 30 Rock/Heroes/Pushing Daisies away! 🙁

  • SimplyKimberly

    I am really scared about 24 not starting on time or, worse yet, starting on time and having nothing else after about 8 hours.

    Of all the seasons that a writer’s strike could affect, it has to be this one where 24 is concerned.

  • Mel

    Will shows be able to keep filming if they have completed scripts?
    How can there be any development of new shows?
    This is shaping up to be pretty sucktastic.
    And then in June the actors contract expires . . . . .. ..

  • plinstrot

    As someone who’s dream job is as a TV writer myself, I definitely sympathize with the writers on this, as well as the industry workers as a whole. I don’t see how networks can sell shows on DVD and iTunes and not give the writers and directors (??) residuals. It seems from my POV that the AMPTP are just being greedy not wanting to share the profits with the creators of the content. Though I can see the Producer’s point that guaranteeing writers a certain amount of money for online media can mean that, if new media stays at its low penetration rate, early efforts will cause studios huge losses and thus derail media development and expansion. Not knowing all the details of negotiations, I can just say that I wish neither side would make absolutes (such as networks saying absolutely no DVD residuals).

  • ewanspotter

    Yeah, the industry sure doesn’t seem to care about the half a billion they lost in ’88. Not everyone is going to get EVERYTHING they want, but there has to be a solid middle ground somewhere.

  • Amy

    I hate to think what this would mean for new shows like Chuck that haven’t had full season orders and are just hitting their stride.

    On the upside I might finally have time to watch all those DVD Boxsets I keep buying.

  • While I “understand” where the writers are coming from and I “support” them in their efforts to get a fair share for their work, I mirror your overall comments in simply saying…. THIS SUCKS… big time!! 🙁 Some of the scripted dramas, which have been in a fight to find and maintain an audience, will most certainly suffer and it will be that much more difficult to find that audiences again. Also, thanks goes out to seat42f for the additional info. Yup, it appears we’ll have plenty of time to catch up on all those shows sitting on our DVRs.

  • Mark

    Oh God. My worst nightmare is coming true: Attack of the Reality Shows and News Stations!

    Well this sucks.

    Atleast there’s still sports, but I am quickly going to miss my scripted shows. Very. Quickly.

  • the studios are greedy, they should give to the request of the writers

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  • Gemnoire

    This sucks. Even living in the UK, I still keep up with a lot of US shows, though the overall state of my TV is unlikely to feel the effects for a while given that we’re generally about a season behind.

    I can really sympathise with the writers on this one, scripts make or break a show and I don’t think they get enough money or credit for it. Unfortunatly a strike is probably the only way to make the studios take notice of them. However it may also shoot them in the foot, as TV fans, certainly those unaware of exactly why they are striking, are liable to become angry at the writers than the studios. This is, unfortunatly always how these things happen (see numerous teachers, lecturers, firemen, prison officers etc.. strikes)

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  • Sam

    I’m with the writers on this one! Without them, we wouldn’t have The Office, Pushing Daisies, Chuck, etc. The deserve a little extra share of the pie.