Question: How do you think the writers’ strike will resolve itself? How do you think it will ultimately affect the TV and Film Industries?

Answer: We are now three months into the Writers Guild of America strike, and news of “cautious optimism” is emerging from informal contract talks between guild leaders and the big media moguls. A real possibility exists that the strike may end this week.

Nevertheless, the talks have progressed slowly, and guild leaders are feeling pressure to secure a more favorable deal on DVD and Internet residuals than that found in the Directors Guild of America’s tentative contract deal announced on Jan. 17. The next few days will be key: if an agreement is reached soon, networks would still have time to produce three to six episodes of scripted shows for the current season, a shorter pilot season could take place, the Oscars would proceed without the specter of pickets, and the threat of a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) strike in July would substantially diminish. If no deal is reached soon, however, talks may once again break down, and the strike could extend for several more months.

Already, the strike has had a profound economic and industrial impact. Los Angeles County has reported estimated losses of $1.5 billion in wages and economic activity to date, not including lost studio production spending. If the strike persists into April, an industrial study suggests that lost spending on television and film production alone could reach $3 billion. When that number is multiplied to assess the “ripple effect” of reduced spending on production supplies and by industry workers, losses climb to $8.4 billion, affecting the economy not only of Los Angeles but also of New York, Vancouver, and other production centers.

In the television sector, all scripted shows have ceased production, and ratings for last week were down 21 percent from the same week a year ago, a decline largely attributed to the lack of fresh scripted shows. The strike has given television executives an opportunity to rethink longstanding programming and development habits, and signs point to reduced pilot production, year-round release of new shows and a less expensive approach to courting advertising revenue than the traditionally glitzy mid-May upfronts.

Feature film production has actually increased during the strike, as producers are shooting stockpiled scripts and rushing to beat a possible SAG walkout in the summer. That said, filmmakers are working without the assistance of script polishes and dialogue changes during production, which may well translate into weaker films for late 2008 and 2009.

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