Let Them Eat Reruns

With the WGA and AMPTP now slated to resume negotiations after the Thanksgiving holiday there may be a ray of hope for the resumption of production.

The producers had said they’d never sit down again while a strike was proceeding, and now it seems that this was just negotiating bluster. Needless to say, both sides try to sound as tough as they can during this process — that’s what negotiations are all about.

In this vein, the producers have floated the idea that the strike will turn out to be a net positive for them. They’ll just air reruns or new reality shows and, after the strike hits its sixth week, they’ll be able to use “force majeure” clauses to break various development and production deals that they’ve wanted out of.

But here’s the rub — are audiences really that stupid? Do they really not notice the difference between reruns and original programming? Do new reality shows have a guaranteed audience? Frankly, I doubt it.

To see it otherwise is to assume that it doesn’t matter what’s on the air — the suckers in the audience are going to watch anyway. That breaks the oldest rule in the book: “Never underestimate your audience.” TV may be addictive, but there are plenty of other screens available now and when the public gets bored, they’re going to go elsewhere.

Hopefully, cooler heads are going to prevail, and the parties will find a way to share the wealth. Unlike most of the news coverage so far, an article in today’s NY Times offers some specifics about the deal points in question using webisodes of “Lost” as an example.

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5 Comments on “Let Them Eat Reruns”

  1. AndrewK Says:

    Considering the popular trend of season (even series) long story arcs I think the networks idea to just plug in reruns isn’t going to work as well as it would’ve just a few years ago. When all episodes are stand alone people might not mind seeing their favorite episode of the season again so soon, but when everyone is waiting to see what happens to character X, and the plot comes to a screeching halt viewers are going to get miffed.

  2. It’s my feeling (and I wrote about it on my blog) that the concept of networks is slowly going away, thanks to the advent of Tivo. Honestly, once you’ve programmed your favorite shows to record by name do you even remember what network they were originally on, much less the day and time.

    If this is the case then the idea of re-runs is a misnomer. We program our own networks. If we want to watch THE OFFICE, then it doesn’t matter whether we’re watching an original episode or something that is in re-runs. The only thing that matters is if we’ve seen it or not. And that is about our own personal network, not about when the old-fashioned networks are running the show.

    That means that re-runs aren’t relevant anymore. Once again, the networks are caught thinking in 20th Century terms, here in the middle of a 21st Century strike.

  3. Scott Janush Says:

    While there are many of us who have had no direct impact because of the strike, there are a great many who are starting to feel the collateral effects of it.

    I had a conversation this morning with a long term employee who work in post production, an outstanding worker who has been with Universal for 39 years who is being laid off tomorrow as a result of the strike. Whether he comes back as a continuing employee is anyone’s guess.


  4. Brad Cordeiro Says:

    I work in reality, and everyone in this sector has definitely noticed an increase in shows going into production. Some companies even have two seasons of a show in production at the same time. My post supervisor has also received resumes from scripted editors who have been put out of work by the strike.

    The other thing is, reality shows don’t need a big audience to be cost-effective. We don’t have writers, we don’t have actors, and our production schedules are extremely condensed. Even with 3-5 shares, the networks continue to ask for more.

  5. Steve Says:

    Good points. No question, we’re going to see more reality TV — and probably a lowering of average wages because of it. But a show that is profitable for a producer may not be making good money for the network that airs it, as today’s LA Times points out. The networks haven’t felt much pain yet, but this is a harbinger:

    STRIKE REPORT–Lower ratings could pinch TV ads

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