One Year After the Writers' Strike

Posted on February 11, 2009

Variety examines the state of Hollywood one year after the writers' strike and the conclusion is that times are tough. After the writers' strike the global recession hit. The perfect storm of events has left many screenwriters out of work or taking much lower salaries.

At the outset, the strike starved the major nets and some cablers of original scripted programming at the worst possible time for a disruption to primetime's status quo. Even top-tier shows -- think "CSI," "Grey's Anatomy," "House" and "Heroes" -- haven't recovered from the ratings hit they took after being MIA for most of the second half of last season. As any network skedding exec will tell you, when viewers break a given habit, even for just a few weeks, it's next to impossible to get them all back.


Most painfully for the town, the strike gave the congloms the force majeure cover to make deep, immediate cuts without fear of losing competitive advantage in the creative community or appearing as if they were retrenching. In the space of a few days in mid-January 2008, NBC Universal, Disney, News Corp., Time Warner and CBS Corp. wiped many millions of dollars in overall deals and other development obligations off their books.

In the year that has passed, series budgets have been hacked; ABC and CBS asked for cuts of 3%-10% from all scripted series even before the worst of the financial crisis hit last year. It's understood that several established drama series on the Big Three are under pressure to cut budgets by double digits or they will not be returning even though they deliver respectable ratings.

Now that there are fewer studios due to corporate mergers, budgets are even tighter than they ever have been. When the economy rebounds -- whenever that might be -- things will recover. But in the meantime, things are very tough for everyone but the biggest stars and producers. It will take more time for Hollywood to recover.

The article says WGA leaders and many members say the sacrifices of the strike were well worth it. Variety says the most important part of the deal to the WGA scribes is that the "deal prevented a repeat of the reviled homevid compensation battle of the 1980s, in which scribe residuals were based on only 20% of revenues generated by vid sales."

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