Hollywood braces for actors strike
SAG and AFTRA members supporting striking grocery workers in late 2003.
TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Kai Ryssdal: The last time there was labor news out of Hollywood, it was pretty easy to figure out who was who. You had the Writers Guild -- the WGA -- on one side, the studios on the other.
Come the end of this month, though, there's gonna be a whole new cast of characters to learn -- they go by the acronyms SAG and AFTRA -- and perhaps another strike to worry about as well.
We've got Joe Adalian from TV Week on the line to help us figure out who's who and what they're doing.
Joe, first of all, SAG and AFTRA?
Joe Adalian: SAG is the Screen Actors Guild and that represents the majority of actors that you see in TV and movies. It basically covers anything that goes on physical film. AFTRA is American Federation of Television and Radio Actors and it covers mostly things that are on videotape. It's a smaller union, but it has a voice in this negotiation.
Ryssdal: And AFTRA is the one that's actually reached some kind of a deal, right?
Adalian: Right. AFTRA has reached a tentative deal with the producers and what's key is that there are 44,000 actors who are members of both SAG and AFTRA and if AFTRA is able to get its membership to pass its deal, it takes away a lot of leverage from SAG.
Ryssdal: And SAG is actually lobbying AFTRA members not to approve this deal, aren't they?
Adalian: Exactly. They're lobbying the 44,000 members of AFTRA who are also members of SAG to reject this deal saying its a bad deal, that SAG can actually get more for the actors than AFTRA's negotiated already. AFTRA, of course, is outraged by this, telling SAG to butt out and that labor chaos will ensue if the AFTRA deal is rejected.
Ryssdal: So what are the odds, in your considered opinion, of labor chaos, an actual strike?
Adalian: I still believe its a small shot that its going to happen. However, in recent days, the mood of the town has changed as we get closer to the June 30 expiration of the SAG and AFTRA deals and the fact that the rhetoric coming from both sides has not gotten conciliatory at all, there's a little bit of a worry. The fact is nobody knows anything, as often is said in Hollywood, and in this case, who knows?
Ryssdal: Other than us missing our favorite sitcoms and maybe a couple of movies, what would this do to the business end of entertainment?
Adalian: It could be devastating. If it's a very short strike, just a week or so, a sort of a symbolic strike, no real impact whatsoever. However, if it goes on for more than a month or two, what you're going to see happen is you're going to see the television season delayed. The networks are hoping that the fall is going to be their chance to reintroduce themselves to viewers and really put their best foot forward. But if there's a strike and shows aren't available in September and October and all you have are reality shows, once again you're going to see viewers fleeing to cable and Guitar Hero and not watching network TV and if it affects the fourth quarter, the fall season, that's much more devastating to the networks' bottom line because they've just concluded an upfront market in which they did a lot better than they expected and that's when the bulk of their ad money is spent is in the fourth quarter and if suddenly, they have to go back to advertisers and say, "Well, we don't really have all these new fall shows we promised you," it's going to be trouble.
Ryssdal: Do we know after the writers strike whether or not audiences actually came back to television?
Adalian: They did and they didn't. They did OK with some reality shows and some sitcoms, but overall, there were a lot of shows that were just down, down, down and that's continued into the summer. Even though summer is mostly about reality shows, the shows that have been airing in June so far have been doing really poorly.
Ryssdal: That's 'cause we're all sick and tired of reality shows. I mean, come on.
Adalian: And that's part of it. That's a very good point, Kai. There were more reality shows in the first and second quarters because of the strike and now what are the networks doing? Hey, have even more reality.
Ryssdal: Joe Adalian is a columnist and the deputy editor at TV Week. Joe, thanks a lot.
Adalian: Thank you, sir.