Faced with a slate of reruns and reality if the writers' strike persists, stations are making plans to produce original content to freshen up the mix. KHQ Spokane has specialized in local sports specials in the past, such as ones highlighting the local Gonzaga University basketball squad, and VP/General Manager Patricia McRae says the NBC station could make do with more of those. “We would definitely hang our hat on more original production if that's what's needed,” she says.
Stations nationwide are working out gameplans in the event of a worst-case strike scenario. Local television is potentially affected throughout the day, whether it's soaps in daytime, reruns in prime affecting the all-important late news race, and rehashed episodes of the late-night talkers. “We are 100% worried,” says McRae. “I think all station managers feel that way—we don't want to be in reruns all the time.”
Several general managers are wondering just how huge Fox's unscripted giant American Idol can get if it airs against reruns in January. “It becomes that much more dominant if it's up against lesser competition,” says Harold Cooper, general manager of Fox-affiliate WVAH and ABC-outlet WCHS, both in Charleston, W.Va.
With fresh product on his 10 p.m. news on Fox and Nightline on ABC, Cooper says he could see a ratings boost if they're up against reruns. “We might actually gain some news viewers,” he says. “I'm looking for opportunities.”
Still, there is universal hope that the differences between the networks/studios and the writers are resolved quickly. “It's in everybody's best interest to work this out fairly immediately,” says WREG Memphis (CBS) President/General Manager Ronald Walter. “It definitely impacts us adversely if it goes on for a long time.”