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HomeBlog the LineAP: Studios Gird for Possible Writers Strike

AP: Studios Gird for Possible Writers Strike

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AP, taking a not-very-hopeful tack, as the Tinsel Town news starts to spread, more and more, into the entertainment-obsessed mainstream….

Studios Gird for Possible Writers Strike

Friday May 11, 4:21 pm ET

By Gary Gentile, AP Business Writer

Hollywood Studios Stockpiling Shows for Possible Strike by Writers

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hollywood studios are speeding production on movies and TV shows, preparing for a possible strike by writers and more trouble next year when contracts with actors and directors expire.

TV networks, which are in the midst of planning fall schedules, also might pack their lineups with more reality shows and other unscripted fare as protection against a possible strike.

“It’s simply sound business,” said J. Nicholas Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which negotiates on behalf of the studios.

“Based upon the public statements of the Writers Guild, it’s quite clear these are going to be very contentious negotiations,” he said. “Their statements are bellicose, so we’ve got to prepare for the worst.”

Among the shows accelerating production is NBC’s “Las Vegas,” which started three months earlier than usual with the aim of finishing 18 to 24 episodes before the fall. Normally, the show would have only about seven or eight episodes filmed.

“In essence, it makes us strike proof,” said Gary Scott Thompson, the show’s writer and executive producer and a veteran of the last writer’s strike in 1988.

Another NBC show, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” began shooting two months early…

The article then gets even less hopeful about a potential settlement:

The writers argue the payments — modeled after the structures used for DVD rights — are too low.

Older battles also remain to be resolved, including the revision of a decades-old formula for compensating writers for work that appears on DVD.

“There’s no question in my mind this is not simply about emerging technology, but the perception that the guilds pretty much got screwed in previous negotiations in what were then emerging technologies,” TV writer and producer Steven Bochco said.

“All the guilds feel strongly that they don’t want to be caught in a position that doesn’t anticipate rapidly shifting technological advancements that leave them high and dry.”

Bochco, the Emmy Award-winning creator of such shows as “NYPD Blue” and “Hill Street Blues” is creating a legal drama pilot for TNT. He said the issue of stockpiling always arises as a negotiating tactic.

Both the WGA and Screen Actors Guild elected new leaders after the current contracts were signed who have promised to get tougher with studios…

Though there was also this:

Despite the rhetoric, there are powerful incentives for both sides to avoid a strike. Network programming is losing viewers and advertisers are spending less on TV and more on the Internet.

Networks have also had success with reality shows such as “Deal or No Deal” and “Dancing With the Stars,” leaving less room on the schedule for scripted shows.

“There is already lot of that kind of programming to fill space with in a worst case scenario,” said Carolyn Finger, vice president of TVtracker.com, an Internet-based consulting firm.

The last time writers struck was in 1988, a bitter five-month walkout.

In 2001, studios also stockpiled scripts and accelerated production in anticipation of a strike. While a walkout was averted, thousands of technicians, carpenters and people who service the entertainment industry were out of work because of the de facto strike…

Though Steve Bochco delivers the kicker, and something we’ve been arguing in BTL’s “Union Roundup” column for, well, years:

Bochco said a strike this year could be extremely difficult because TV and film operations represent a small part of the income earned by the huge conglomerates that own studios and networks.

“When you strike, you’re not striking Universal or Paramount, or NBC,” Bochco said. “You’re striking News Corp. You’re striking Viacom Inc., You’re striking General Electric Co. Those are much deeper pockets and those are companies that can afford to hold out for a far longer period of time…”

Do you really imagine that a company like General Electric — which trucks in the putative annihilation of women and children as part of its “product line” — is going to break a sweat over settling with a bunch of wastrel Hollywood writers?

Oh, stay tuned darlings…

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