Writers on the Storm

While writers — including high-profile ones — walked picket lines as the strike against Hollywood studios continued, advertisers started to get concerned about how it might affect them. By and large, with networks having enough new episodes to fill the air through early next year, they aren’t worried in the short term.

But if the strike is a lengthy one that forces networks to turn to a mix of re-runs and reality shows, there’s a sense that it could be a long, cold winter. The last writer’s strike, in 1988, went on for 22 weeks and cost the industry $500 million. While prime-time ratings might not feel the hit until possibly as late as February (with at least a 5 percent drop overall), late night shows that advertisers use to reach a desirable younger audience such as The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live are already in repeats.

The fact is advertisers still need network TV. It’s still considered the best vehicle for fast, wide reach — the most efficient way to draw moviegoers to opening night. And hit scripted shows tend not only to be the highest-rated but provide the most attractive environments for marketers to run their spots. It’s not all about gross rating points. And re-runs and reality shows just don’t offer the same type of viewer-engaged platform as a new episode of Grey’s Anatomy (as evidenced by that show’s inflated ad rates). Advertisers still find Ugly Betty very attractive.

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