May 17, 2023

You probably have seen on the news or read about the current TV writers strike. You may have noticed that your favorite late night talk shows are airing re-runs. How else is TV being impacted? The Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) have not reached an agreement, putting a strike into place. How many other ways will this impact your TV viewing? Will it be similar to the strike in 2007?

Glimpse into TV Landscape with Writers’ Strike

The 2007 writers’ strike lasted 100 days and resulted in a 25% decrease of primetime scripted programming. Networks and studios had to get creative and use writers that were not a part of the strike. The writers had an upper hand in the 2007 strike because there had not been a work stoppage in a very long time. Therefore, the industry was unprepared for this disruption. However, the writers did not gain much in the long term and led to unintended consequences. This strike was actually beneficial for the development of unscripted television and streaming services, which is the center of the negotiations in 2023.

2023 Writers’ Strike

Writers are not pleased at how much less they are getting paid in streaming deals compared to broadcast and cable network deals. Streaming is becoming more popular with millions watching the writers’ work, but the writers complain that they are not receiving enough compensation for this. There has also been a development in mini-rooms, where producers pay fewer writers at a lower cost for more scripts. WGA also has concerns about newer technologies, such as artificial intelligence, replacing or taking over the role of writers. The TV industry is in a much different landscape than it was in 2007 and some say this strike is a worse situation.

Cause and Effect of the Strike

Studios have been cost-cutting to try to save money in this uncertain economy. Major media companies have been using drastic measures to reduce costs such as lay-offs, pausing budgets, and looking for new ways to make money. Because of this recent strike, some network television series could be delayed, and many talk shows stopped airing new shows immediately. In 2007, the strike caused a huge decline in broadcast network ratings; the 2023 strike could have the same impact on ratings. However, this strike may not cause nearly as much disruption.

Will streaming services be impacted?

Because streaming services air in-season network television content, WGA says they will be affected by the strike as well but may take a little longer. Streaming services can air original programming that hasn’t been aired yet, so it’s likely not to see the effect of the strike until the end of 2023 or the beginning of 2024. However, the strike could actually lead to better profitability for media companies since they would be bringing in revenue from their libraries of content without paying to produce the content.

The Bright Side

The two main issues are both solvable problems: make sure writers are receiving fair pay for streaming and eliminate mini-rooms. The AMPTP will most likely try to make progress on these issues, just not as fast as the WGA would like. We have already seen an impact the strike is causing. However, only time will tell on how bad it could get for the industry if an agreement does not happen soon.

Cate Bender, the author, is Project Coordinator of Marketing Keys.

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May 17, 2023