No guarantee after end of strike

Stacey Vanek Smith Feb 8, 2008
Writers Guild of America West and their supporters walk the picket line outside 20th Century Fox Studios in Los Angeles. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

No guarantee after end of strike

Stacey Vanek Smith Feb 8, 2008
Writers Guild of America West and their supporters walk the picket line outside 20th Century Fox Studios in Los Angeles. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images


Kai Ryssdal: I know it’s gonna be hard to wean yourself off all those great new reality shows you’ve gotten hooked on, but the bettin’ money is that the writers strike could be over by the end of the weekend.

Guild negotiators are going to brief the rank and file tomorrow. If everybody likes what they hear, writers’ rooms will be open for business on Monday.

The strike went a long three months, though, so nobody’s really sure what Hollywood’s economic future holds. Stacey Vanek-Smith reports.

Stacey Vanek-Smith: Television writers Mike Royce and Kit Boss have worked on hit shows like “Everybody Loves Raymond” and ‘King of the Hill,” but for the last three months, they’ve been focused on more mundane issues:

Mike Royce: There’s the gaps in the line, there’s the speed of the line, sign etiquette…

Kit Boss: There’s how you turn: Do you pivot? Or do you do a Daytona 500 turn?

Mike Royce: This is what our lives have been reduced to.

In front of the main gate of Fox Studios in West Los Angeles, Royce and Boss are picketing for what could be the last day. Tomorrow, writers will meet to see what kind of a deal guild leadership got on issues like internet residuals. Royce says he’s hopeful an agreement will be reached, but, he says, the industry he goes back to will not be the same one he left:

Royce: The business was changing rapidly before the strike. The strike helped the business change even more rapidly. Everybody’s job has changed, everybody’s job is up for grabs. It’s just been a big sea change.

One of those changes is that more people are watching TV on the Internet or not at all — viewership has been on the decline — and the industry is still trying to figure out how to make money off of the web, but L.A. Observed’s Mack Lacter says the industry’s entire business model is outdated and everything is up in the air:

Mack Lacter: The thing is, nobody knows nothing. There’s a recognition that the environment has changed and I think the strike has crystallized the thought process of what’s going to be involved as far as monetizing these new industries.

Lacter says that could mean the scrapyard for many industry traditions like the hugely pricey pilot season, when networks develop a stack of new shows to choose among for the coming fall season. Lacter says, that will be bad news for writers:

Lacter: The development process tends to be very, very expensive and it’s something that the networks have really been looking to try and cut back on. Of course, for writers, it’s a real opportunity to make money, whether or not the show actually ends up on the air.

Lacter says another blow to writers will be the reality TV boom. He expects networks will stick with cheap programming during the industry’s transition.

And writer’s won’t be the only one’s changed by the strike. The TV advertising landscape has also changed, says entertainment analyst Hal Vogel.

Hal Vogel: Madison Avenue has to adjust to this as well as the studios and the broadcast networks.

Vogel says networks are scrambling to get a hold of ad dollars as they migrate away from traditional TV and towards new media:

Vogel: There’s going to be a change in the way television is viewed and the programs are distributed and this is still in its early stages. That’s why we don’t know what the profit balance is going to be. The economics of it are not fully determined yet.

TV writer Mike Royce says the future is uncertain, but, he says, the strike has given the writers a solidarity and a resolve they didn’t have before. Still, he says, he’s looking forward to being able to work again:

ROYCE: This has been an incredibly galvanizing experience and incredibly unifying and it will be a huge relief to go back to hating each other.

And not just for writers. About 11,000 people could be hating each other again as soon as next week. That would be very good news for Los Angeles. It’s lost an estimated $1.5 billion because of the strike.

In Los Angeles, I’m Stacey Vanek-Smith for Marketplace.

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