With no new shows, NBC gives refunds

Hollywood writers walk the picket line outside of NBC Studios in Burbank, Calif.

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: Don't know about you, but the Hollywood writer's strike is finally starting to hit home. I went to my TiVo last night to catch the most recent episode of "Brothers and Sisters," and came up empty. Just that sad bonk-bonk sound. Trivial, yes, but symptomatic of some larger issues.

NBC has begun giving money back to advertisers. They're not getting the audiences they paid so richly for. Also, television critics have cancelled their winter get together. They meet to check out the networks' new mid-season offerings every January, but now there's not much new to look at.

Marketplace's Jeff Tyler reports.


JEFF TYLER: Last summer, marketers paid about $9 billion in advance for primetime TV advertising. The networks guarantee a certain audience for those commercials. If viewers don't tune in, the networks must make good on it. That's what's happening at NBC. It's started giving advertisers back millions of dollars in refunds.

BRAD ADGATE: It wouldn't surprise me if other broadcast networks follow what NBC's doing in the upcoming months.

That's Brad Adgate with Horizon Media, which buys advertising time for clients. He thinks ratings will drop at all the networks as they air more re-runs and reality shows. The lack of fresh material is one reason the networks pulled out of the Television Critics Association's winter press tour. The January event is where TV executives show off their new sitcoms and dramas. Dave Walker is president of the Association.

DAVE WALKER: January is when the networks were really going to start showing the effects of the strike.

That means no new shows to promote, and lots of tough questions for TV executives to answer. Again, Dave Walker.

WALKER: A hundred plus writers from around the country and Canada will not go to L.A., preparing to put a human face on the impact of the strike in Los Angeles.

Who gets the better PR, the suits or the writers? That doesn't really matter to advertisers. Horizon Media's Brad Adgate says marketers are already finding other ways to reach consumers.

ADGATE: I think that's one of the great ironies of this whole strike, or whole impasse, is that it's about digital media, and digital media could be the one that benefits the most.

He expects advertisers will begin shifting more ad dollars to the Internet.

I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

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