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.
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.