Commentary

Welcome Back, Writers: Now What?

The nearly four-month writers' strike appears to be coming to an end, and not a minute too soon. The union leadership has given its consent, with membership set to vote on the deal in the coming week. As negotiations come to a close, I wonder: Who won, and most importantly, where do we go from here?

The initial indication is the writers ended up with the deal, or at least nearly the deal, they were hoping for. The writers are now in position to garner a larger share of the digital revenue generated from the content they create. If iTunes and like systems continue to grow as we all expect, the writers are in a good position to ride the wave of digital expansion.

The impact on broadcasters is certainly less clear. The last strike occurred in 1988 and led to an erosion of network viewership that never rebounded. So while many feel like this is another nail in the coffin for the broadcasters, we may look back and find this is exactly what they needed. The whole model on how shows are created is incredibly expensive and inefficient, according to many sources at the networks. This strike might just be the opportunity these companies needed to cut down this expense and realign the process, especially as television viewership continues to decline.

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Those of us in the digital media space should be very pleased to see the strike come to an end. As a whole, online advertising did not benefit from a significant shift of broadcast dollars to the web. And although that may have begun to change if the 2008 upfront process was cancelled or significantly reduced, I believe we are better off with this more immediate outcome. Online video is, and will be for the foreseeable future, very reliant on what happens with traditional video. Traditional content creation for the networks, which can then be viewed and monetized online, is how online video will become the multibillion dollar segment we all expect.

Congratulations to the writers and welcome back. I don't think America could handle another week of reality TV programming.

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