Advertisers Mull Strategy For Writers Strike

A writers' strike won't have any immediate effect on the $9 billion worth of TV upfront commercial buys made last June. But a longer strike--into early 2008--could shift some advertisers' money around.

"It would have a ratings impact; it would have a marketplace impact," says Rino Scanzoni, chief investment officer of media agency holding company Group M.

The tight fourth-quarter TV ad market might get worse if a strike occurs. This period has seen massive inventory shortages and high double-digit price increases, all because of makegoods left over from last season.

"It probably won't be as much of a problem in the first quarter because there is a fair amount of inventory," adds Scanzoni. "There are a lot of sporting events--the BCS, the Super Bowl, NCAA--that will draw in money."

The Writers Guild of America voted overwhelming to strike come November 1. The reasons are various, but primarily due to what it says are producers' reluctance to move on issues such are residuals on new video digital platforms.

While TV producers and TV networks have been stockpiling scripts, it's not known how many will become TV shows. TV producers are reluctant to cross strike lines--especially when many take on multi-function titles, such as producers/writers.

When and if the strike happens, many network TV shows could be some five or six episodes ahead--taking them through the November sweep period, according to some analysts. In December, the broadcast networks go into reruns. That means networks won't be feeling any real effects--programming changes and the like--until mid-January.

Right now, many top media agency executives don't have specific plans should a strike occur. Technically, if networks start swapping out scripted shows--or any other type of show--media buyers have the option of taking their money and going elsewhere. The truth, however, is that there aren't many options.

"It's not like I'm going to take the media money and put it into sandwich boards," say Andy Donchin, executive vice president and director of national broadcast for Carat USA. "Where are you going to get the reach networks can get?"

If the strike gets to a point where media buys need to be changed, Donchin has assured both his clients and the TV networks they will work together. "We'll make some adjustments," says Donchin. "I'll get what I can get. We'll work with them the best we can. We are going to do our best for our clients."

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