Is it me or does this WGA (Writers Guild of America) strike feels like it’s been going on for an eternity? For me, it sure does especially when I am subjected each week to such quality shows as Deal or no Deal, American Gladiator, The Moment of Truth, & Don’t Forge the Lyrics. Will this strike ever end!!!!! Ugh!!!!!!!
So, I am been thinking, maybe there is more to this strike that meets the eye. Maybe the networks have a larger goal they are trying to achieve – lowering programming costs. Before I start explaining my theory, I would like to make note that this is a hypothesis and I do not have any proof at all that this is true. With that said, let me explain my theory.
Since the strike started, we have seen a hard stance by both camps – the networks and WGA. Neither group is budging from the position nor are they willing to make great sacrifices in order to achiever their goal, especially the networks.
I think networks see this strike as a golden opportunity to wean the American public from traditional scripted programming and to infuse the schedule with reality-based programs. Scripted programming like CSI, Grey’s Anatomy, Heroes, House, etc. have seen their production cost rise over the last several years while viewership has diminished as a result of increased competition from cable (FX, AMC, TNT, TBS, ABC Family, HBO, Showtime) and other outlets like the internet.
This change has lead to lost opportunities in charging premium dollars for advertisement time on successful shows. For instance, ratings for Heroes were down so dramatically, NBC gave money back to their advertisers which are unheard of in this industry.
On the flip side, reality programming is ½ to ¾ the cost to produce than traditional scripted programming. Reality programming does have high actor, set, special effects, writer, and location costs to deal with.
In addition, networks are not limited on the number of shows they can produce. Most traditional scripted series run 20-24 episodes a season. So the window to make money is limited between September and May.
On the other hand, reality program can be unlimited and run practically all year long. Lower production costs and longer windows for viewership allow for more opportunities to increase revenue. You can see why the networks might want to switch business models. What a genius idea!
If this is not proof enough, then I would like to point to the Director’s Guild. Their contract was up for renewal and they were able to get a deal done in January without a threat of strike. If this could be done with the directors, then why it can’t with the writers…I will tell you, the networks do not want the strike to end.
I predict the strike will come to an end around May. Why May? Well May is the end of the normal network schedule. By ending the strike in May, the networks are not obligated to produce any more scripted shows until the fall and by then; the public would have already developed an affection for reality TV during the strike and would expect to see these shows on the fall schedule. This strategy means more reality programming and less scripted programming – a win for the networks.
As a fan of scripted programming, I just hope that my theory is not true and the strikes ends as soon as possible, because reality TV SUCKS!