Writers' Strike: Bad Timing As Streamers Cut Back On TV, Movie Content Production?

A writers' strike seems to be coming at the worst time. But if not now, when?

Their focus is on the future of streaming, and to what level writers will contribute to this in the future. 

Premium streaming platforms have dramatically slowed their content spend -- which already comes amid a growing industry norm of producing anywhere from 6-8 episodes a season for many original streaming TV shows.

This is in contrast to the 22-episode season of many linear TV networks just a few years back. The end result: fewer episodes on streaming means less money generally for writers who can get paid per episode for their work. Now you know why they want a form of residual payments on the back-end.

But each time we go through one of these stoppages -- intended or not -- the 2007-2008 writers' strike, and the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic from 2020-2021 -- this gives legacy TV-based network media companies, and new digital-first premium video platform companies, more reasons to find cheaper ways to produce content.



And it's not just factoring in less expensive and easier-to-produce unscripted TV shows, but globally based TV content such as Netflix's monster hit “Squid Game” --  a non-English language drama -- which surprisingly became popular with U.S. audiences.

And what does all that mean going forward?

“The sorry news for writers is that in declaring a strike, they may in fact be helping streaming giants and their parent companies,” writes Luke Landis, media analyst for MoffettNathanson Research.

“The last time we saw wide scale production stoppages was in 2020 at the outset of the pandemic. That year also happened to be the only year many of these services were able to grow free cash flow.”

Landis reiterates how one Hollywood Talent Agency executive described modern streaming platforms versus linear TV networks. It means looking at the business as if there were different building skylines -- one in New York City and one in Los Angeles, for example.

“In other words,” he says, “there will be fewer monumental hits and a denser landscape of two- to three-story buildings.”

For some that means some vague value judgments of streaming shows. Right now, marketers cannot get viewership metrics for the average streaming TV series, as easily as they can for live, linear TV network shows.

Digging deeper, writers also cannot evaluate advertising revenue for particular TV series, as they can for linear TV series.

All of this means it will be more difficult for writers going forward when it comes to figuring out where they will land, in terms of value, in a TV series production.

The broader picture also leaves question marks as to what premium streamers platforms will look like, say, two years from now. 

That tale doesn't have a familiar, meaningful ending storyline yet.

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