First off, the obvious impact is the absence of new, original programming in the fall. The writers’ strike already impacted that schedule, and the loss of the actors cements it.
The last time this happened, reality TV took over, but I predict something completely different this time. I expect a combination of game-show television plus.
And this is the crazy idea: You might start seeing YouTube creators on traditional television. The hole in programming opens the door for unscripted original programs featuring the likes of Dude Perfect and Mr. Beast. Why not? These folks have built-in audiences that may exceed any kind of current programming, they create lots of content on the cheap, and they attract advertisers. Also, they are not part of SAG. It wouldn’t take much for them to bridge the gap from YouTube to NBC or CBS.
If I were a studio exec, I would be making those calls and if I were a leader in the creator economy, I would absolutely be taking those calls as an opportunity to build my brand and create a new, more dependable revenue stream.
The studios are taking a rather hard stance when it comes to writers -- and, as I wrote a few weeks ago, the writers don’t have a lot of leverage. Generative AI is improving rapidly and can arguably create content that is as strong as some writers do. The only leverage for writers now is that the actors struck in solidarity, but once again, the creator economy offers a lot of personalities with built-in audiences.
An AI-generated script used as a starting point for more improvisational programming seems like an easy step, in my eyes. The studio heads simply need to outlast the writers, and they likely have the funds to do so.
Both scenarios are very realistic because as the fall approaches, there’s the matter of ad revenue at stake. Advertisers could start pulling their commitments if there’s no quality programming to attract the audience. The strike is in play now, but its true impact won’t be felt for two more months. That means the writers and actors must hold out for 60 days before any real movement is likely. As revenue starts to slip, it becomes a waiting game to see who wins.
There’s another potential risk as a result of the strike, and that lies squarely on the shoulders of the movie theater owners. Theatrical attendance never truly recovered from COVID, and this could be the nail in the coffin. A dearth of new releases means fewer people in theaters, which may be forced to start closing.
Studios will be focused on streaming services to get their films to the masses, and streaming is the central issues in the strike. The writers, actors and studios have yet to come up with a way to manage the revenue associated with streaming in a fair and equal manner. As the industry is forced even further in this direction, the challenge becomes even more important.
If you don’t work in Hollywood, this strike can feel far away, but it does have ramifications across the ecosystem of media and entertainment. A fragile entertainment economy is not good for the broader economy teetering on growth vs. recession. The next 30 days in the media world are going to be interesting!