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Your Shows May be Put on Hold…or Already Are

November 9, 2007 Leave a comment

In case you’ve missed the news or have been left in the dark to wonder why your favorite TV shows are now in repeats, there is a little writers’ strike going on in Hollywood. It’s actually quite massive. After talks over the summer for contract negotiations fell through, the Writers’ Guild went on strike. The last time this happened it was in 1988, lasted 22 weeks and cost the industry $500 million.

The writers are hoping to reap larger royalties from DVD sales and digital downloads. While this would idealistically be nice, digital downloads have not been show to be profitable yet. TV shows don’t become profitable until reaching syndication (where the show is picked up for reruns on other stations outside of its normal viewing time). What happens is stations, locally and from other broadcasters like ABC, FOX, NBC, etc., place bids on original programming. This is why you see scrubs on Comedy Central, Family Guy on TBS, The Simpsons on ABC. You see how it goes. The magic number is 100 episodes for syndication even though some have broken this mold like Family Guy and Futurama. The only thing that might come out of DRM and DVD sales for now is perhaps lowering the magic number, but there are no extra profits to be had.

The LATimes has comprised a comprehensive list of the shows being affected. If that link doesn’t work just Google it. As you can see some shows, mainly the late night ones have already been put into reruns because they rely on current events for material. Others will take some time like primetime dramas and comedies. Even though there is material until January, it will be interesting to see a Soap Opera in repeats or even replaced with something else assuming the strike lasts that long. Other seasons will be put on hold for a while like Law and Order, Lost, My Name is Earl, etc. once their current new material is used up.

One thing to pay close attention to is shows like Scrubs in their final season. The last handful of episodes aren’t completed yet and with NBC ready to pull the plug on the show a few years ago even after an Emmy nomination, NBC may choose to just cancel the rest of the series. I hope not, but that is a likely scenario.

One thing is for sure, the television industry is going to lose a lot of money. Advertisers don’t want to pay for spots at current market price for old commodities. The audience is excited for new episodes of shows and will become disenfranchised with repeats and mid-afternoon infomercials. If the writers are able to get what they want, the industry will have to pay up but at least for now, they’re not having to pay their writers. It will be interesting to see what comes out of this. Hopefully something everyone can agree on and a return to our regular programming.

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