|HOME||MEDIABIZBLOGGERS.com||WOMEN ADVANCING||HOOKED UP||MEMBERSHIP INFO||MEMBER COMPANIES||MEDIA BUSINESS REPORT||ECONOMIC FORECASTS||RESEARCH|
Published: November 16, 2007 at 04:03 AM GMT
Last Updated: November 17, 2007 at 04:03 AM GMT
The issues in the continuing strike by the Writers Guild of America against television studios and networks are reasonably clear: writers want a share of revenues generated by the digital extensions and expansions of the network programming they work on; and they are claiming rights to a share of revenues within the same economic construct from new digital content the studios and networks produce.
The challenges are formidable and the only likely scenario will be an agreement by both sides to put a band-aid on the festering issue for another three years until the business realities of digital output are more clearly defined. As I put forward last week, advertisers have the opportunity to step in and underwrite a three year commitment to writers by creating a pool of funds to be distributed to writers, actors and directors until a more permanent solution can be put in place. Essentially, I'm proposing a short-term tax on TV advertising in scripted programming that falls under the Writers Guild purview. Unfortunately, although this could be the best case model for developing a practical solution, it's extremely unlikely to happen.
The strike needs to be resolved no later than mid-January or the traditional timetable for network concept development, script writing and pilot production will unravel. Perhaps there is a silver lining. The fall television season evolved in the earliest days of television when networks produced original series to run from September, when school returned to session and cold weather brought people indoors, to May, when available audiences declined. Summer was a time almost exclusively reserved for primetime repeats. The auto industry conformed its annual new model introduction period to September and October, when interest in new television series was peaked.
While September remains an important month, the number of original episodes produced for major series has declined from 39 annually in the 1950s and 1960s to 22 and, for many series, as few as eight or twelve episodes. In the days when a broadcast network primetime series was required to deliver ratings as high as 30% of the U.S. market, the need to concentrate programming launches during peak viewing seasons was a relevant strategy. Today, when a successful series might generate less than a 4.0 rating among adults 18 to 49, seasonal variations are largely meaningless. In fact, the very concept of launching dozens of new series on multiple networks within a four to six week period is increasingly being viewed as absurd and self-destructive.
If the writers' strike continues, and ultimately causes the collapse of the traditional TV development, pilot, Upfront and fall season continuum, it would not necessarily be a bad thing for the industry.
Similarly, the network television Upfront selling period is a vestige of a business model that no longer exists. In the 1950s, every primetime network television series, including the nightly news, was sponsored. The Upfront was established for networks to present new series to advertisers, who would select programs they would sponsor. Unsponsored programs were not produced. When ABC was not able to generate full funding for their minimal number of primetime hours, they shifted several series to multiple advertiser participation. Within a few years, the business was transformed from sponsorship to a scattershot reach-based advertising model. Over the years, the Upfront has retained its relevance more because it serves the best interests of networks and buying agencies than for logistical value. If the Upfront were to disappear, it might return next year, but my guess is that both networks and agencies will discover its loss did not materially affect their businesses.
In the meantime, cable and syndication are well positioned to capitalize on the strike. Digital video revenues, ironically, will be accelerated. Print, radio, place-based and out-of-home media, and alternative media options will all benefit. The challenge of broadcast network erosion promises to be a major issue this year strike or not, so realities of viewing patterns are going to be highlighted in negotiations and discussions between network buyers and sellers.
The writers' strike, if not settled very quickly, is a catalyst that will impact the television business for decades ahead, pushing forward the agenda of many in the industry who have sought changes to traditional business models they consider outdated and irrelevant. Strikes often come down to which side has the least to gain and the most to lose – in this case it's really tough to figure that out. Add your comments and observations on which side is right, wrong and most likely to blink first.
Maybe country music is more your speed. You can get plenty of it every Wednesday night on ABC’s “Nashville,” which most weeks is chock-full of original country tunes. Here’s a standout song from the show’s third season, “Gasoline and Matches,” performed by Connie Britton and one of this season’s outstanding guest actresses, Broadway star Laura Benanti, who has been appearing regularly on “Nashville” and this past Sunday held her own opposite Ed Asner in a guest shot on CBS’ “The Good Wife.” Sticking with the superhero theme above, Benanti has also been cast as the mother of the title character in the pilot for CBS’ “Supergirl.”Read More
The deficiencies are that traditional television has never gotten down to the core of the business which would be the interest of advertisers -- to measure commercial viewing and commercial ratings. It has always been using that surrogate of program ratings that translate down to estimated commercial ratings. But now in the digital world, the measurability is there. The accountability is there. There is no reason why an advertiser couldn’t know that the commercial was viewed or not. And of course the clutter of traditional television (with an enormous amount of ads squeezed into a pod and an enormous amount of pods forcing viewers to watch 20 minutes of advertising out of every hour of content) has trained the viewer to avoid advertising. There are so many tools now – the DVR – and just multi-tasking has created so many ways for the viewer to avoid advertising that I don’t believe television advertisers are really getting what they think they are getting. Television is a valuable medium but it is time to move into this next level of measurement.Read More