It didn't seem possible just a few months ago that there could be another strike hitting the TV and film industry. But the way the Screen Actors Guild is talking, there's a real possibility that it could happen again, following up on last winter's Writers Guild of America strike.
For the networks, the good news is that all this is happening in the summer--more or less out of the limelight of TV viewers' attention. The bad news is that the summer will end. Then viewers will be left with the possibility that the customary fall season start of new shows won't happen.
Right now, it's a TV marketing problem. TV networks use the summer to build marketing and awareness--particularly for those new shows. But this year is different. Because of the writers' strike, a number of shows were just yanked from the airwaves in December/January/February, and haven't been seen since.
Networks worry about the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" problem.
So, NBC would be essentially re-launching "Heroes." ABC would be doing the same for "Pushing Daisies." While the former has a big built-in audience, the latter is still a relative newbie looking to build more viewer awareness and retention.
Even if some shows have a number of episodes already in the can, they don't have a season's worth of shows. So network executives will again need to make similar decisions to those they were forced to make some months ago--run some episodes with the potential of stopping again, or hold off until they can be assured of getting an entire season's worth of shows.
Many networks have an all or nothing approach--scheduling original shows one after another with no repeats. That's because loyal viewers can stray when shows go into periodic reruns. So ABC is committed to running straight originals for "Lost."
More prominent are shows like "24," which had Fox canceling its season in 2008 with the hope of running a full complement of 24 episodes starting in 2009. Fox now is already set. But other big-name shows are way behind--"Grey's Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives," "CSI: Miami" and "The Office."
To make matters worse, TV marketers will be blanked again by TV critics if the SAG decides to walk come July 1. If a strike occurs, the Television Critics Association will abandon its mid-July press tour event.
All that means the nation's TV critics might be left with little to write about for the upcoming season.
Then again, because of the writers' strike, networks were already scaling back new shows for a fall season launch. Now some executives are talking about delaying the traditional fall season start altogether.
Is there a trend forming here?