The Final Chapter? - Broadcasting & Cable

The Final Chapter?

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If you want to know when the writers' strike is going to end, it is starting to look pretty simple. Either it will get settled within a few weeks, or we're in for the very long haul. With the directors' deal now done, we're about to find out quickly.

At least that was the sense floating around the television industry after the Directors Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers cut a deal last Thursday.

The hope is that the DGA-AMPTP deal is close enough to what the Writers Guild of America wants that it will get those two pals back to the table.

Then a deal could be made with both sides saving face. Of course, that is the most important part of any contract negotiation. As Randy Jackson would say, “Welcome to Hollywood.”

The AMPTP could say it wrestled a favorable deal from the DGA that pressured the WGA back to the table. The WGA could say its actions got the DGA a better deal and pulled the AMPTP closer to the WGA demands.

Bottom line, everyone can go back to work and I can go back to cheering for McDreamy to dump that pain in the arse Meredith and do what I would do with his looks…date everyone in Seattle. At the same time.

Word is that WGA lawyers and negotiators should know within a month if the DGA-AMPTP deal is good enough to get the WGA and the AMPTP back to the table. First, the WGA has to examine the deal and decide if Internet revenue is to its liking. Then it needs to look like it is not being pressured back to the table.

In a sit down last week one day before the DGA-AMPTP deal was made, WGA West President Patric Verrone told me they will look closely at the DGA deal. But he warned that a DGA settlement wouldn't necessarily change the situation.

Some writers and showrunners have no interest in bowing to whatever the DGA and AMPTP serve up. Conversely, there is a growing number of more moderate showrunners who are anxious to use the DGA accord to get back to work.

What happens if the WGA decides the AMPTP-DGA deal isn't enough? Then you may be still reading about the strike from your beach house in the Hamptons.

In the short term, Verrone says the WGA will continue to try and pressure the AMPTP back to the table through tactics like cutting more interim deals with independent production companies, doing to the Grammys and Oscars what they did to the Golden Globes.

“Costing a conglomerate tens of millions of dollars I assume has some effect. I hope it's a positive one in the long run for us,” he says.

But as one network executive pointed out, “We are multibillion-dollar conglomerates. These awards shows are a blip.”

Unless the Oscars splinter the Screen Actors Guild or the WGA, I don't know what would get the sides back to the table in the next few months once the DGA deal and award season passes. That's especially so if ratings even remotely hold up through the spring.

The conglomerates are cutting costs now through a combination of killing development deals, cutting back on pilots and not producing any scripted series. The networks are confident there will be some sort of upfront selling season.

But if the strike goes on for a few months more, in addition to ratings losses the strike will begin hurting revenue streams like international and home video. Significant layoffs could begin.

The bottom line: the AMPTP-DGA deal may be the last, best hope to settle the writers strike.

E-mail comments to ben.grossman@reedbusiness.com

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