Is Writers' Strike Good for TV Networks?
As the WGA and the AMPTP finally resume their negotiations today and take the first step towards (hopefully) ending the writers' strike, TV networks continue to boast to the viewing public as well as investors on Wall Street they are ready for the impact of a prolonged strike. In fact, first FOX and now The CW went so far as to claim the strike will be good for their business.
Although it is obviously true FOX is better prepared for the disappearance of scripted fare than the other networks given the continuing power of "American Idol," the overall ratings of network TV in the US are already down 12% this fall.
If the immensely popular series like "Desperate Housewives," "Grey's Anatomy" and "CSI" suddenly run out of fresh episodes (unless the strike is soon resolved this will happen by early or late January) the ratings will continue to plummet.
The networks appear to be confident that their upcoming slate of untested reality shows and midseason series will strike a chord with viewers and keep them glued to the screen for the remainder of the season.
According to a fresh Variety poll, 77% of viewers however say they will simply watch less TV and that is exactly the opinion shared by media buying companies on Madison Avenue which purchase advertising space on network TV in bulk and then resell it to clients like Microsoft, L'Oreal, Kraft, etc.
When these companies bought commercials on broadcast TV last spring, the networks based their rates on the assumption the ratings would be down 7% this fall.
If the ratings which are already down 12% (also because of the underwhelming slate of new shows) continue to fall, the networks may have to not only give make-good ads to their clients to compensate these losses, but also some cash back.
That means, whether they like it or not, TV networks may have to do their best to end the ongoing writers' strike or this TV season will turn into an utter disaster.