Will Writers' Strike Kill TV Season?
Instant production shutdown of your favorite TV shows? Airwaves cluttered with repeats? Invasion of reality shows and supersized episodes of "American Idol" and "Dancing with the Stars"? It can all happen if Hollywood writers go out on strike, and rumor has it - writers union (WGA) has just got authorization from its members to call the strike. Details, after the jump.
Now before you panic, strike authorization doesn't necessarily mean there will immediately be a strike on November 1 when the current contract of WGA with AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers) expires.
In fact, although the authorization (which they are expected to officially announce this afternoon) gives WGA the right to call a walkout on November 1, it is likely they will continue to negotiate until Christmas.
The issue at stake is writers' cut from digital media cake - DVD, mobile and Internet distribution. When the last contract was made in 2004 WGA did not realize just how much the new media would explode and they want the writers to get their share now.
Unlike the movies where scriptwriters are expendable and have no power, writers in TV are heavily involved in production and often elevated to executive producer or showrunner status.
This is why successful writers like JJ Abrams ("LOST"), Marc Cherry ("Desperate Housewives") and Greg Berlanti ("Brothers & Sisters," pictured above with stars of his shows) start their own production companies and may have in this dispute slight conflict of interest by practically being on both sides.
Because of the dual role of these people it is not yet clear what would happen in the event of a strike. Do they simply stop writing or are they as WGA members required to completely walk out?
Matt Olmstead, showrunner of "Prison Break" says he will immediately walk out of the production as a whole, but David Shore of "House" says he will continue to work as a producer.
That means if the strike is called (the earliest time it could happen is November 1) most of the shows would have to completely shut down production although some may continue to film new episodes until the already written scripts run out.
Most shows are expected to film 10 episodes until November 1 or about 13-15 episodes until Christmas.
The networks usually air about 10 episodes of shows till Christmas and 15 by the end of February sweeps.
If there is a strike the networks will try to stretch out the already filmed episodes as much as possible, but once they burn through them, your favorite shows could go on hiatus or into repeats (as early as January or as late as March) and stay that way until 4-6 weeks after the strike is ended.
The last time a WGA strike occurred in March 1988, the 1987/88 season was cut short and the next season was delayed for more than a month.
During those 7 empty months, the networks heavily relied upon repeats, sports and newsmagazines.
Unfortunately, when the new 1988/89 season finally started in November of 1988, 10% of viewers were gone, causing huge losses to the TV industry.
By starting in the middle of the season, this year's strike could have even stronger repercussions as the networks already struggle to deliver the ratings they promised their advertisers.