Kudos To WGA From ‘Media Life’ Poll

Media Life Magazine 

"Latest strike score: Writers 3, bosses 1"

By Lisa Snedeker

Nov 19, 2007

When the writers and the studios return to the negotiating table next week, three weeks into the strike, the writers by the looks of things appear to be ahead, and in several ways.

For one, they've won over much of the public, which has witnessed these weeks of picket lines and heard the writers come forth with what seem reasonable demands. They've also been exposed to what easily passes for arrogance on the part of the studio bosses.

But it goes beyond simply public appearances. The networks and studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, face the very real prospect of seeing a slide in ratings from which they could well not recover.

That's the feeling of a lot of media buyers in a Media Life poll last week in which it asked readers to assess the impact of the strike.

"Since [ratings] fell 10 percent in '88, I'd say this time it would probably be in the 20-25 percent [range]," wrote one respondent. "Once shows disappear, it's going to be very difficult to bring viewers back."

Wrote another: "The media is fractured into tiny pieces now, with hundreds of channels and dozens of media outlets. If you get people out of the habit of watching your program or network, they will replace it with a new entertainment habit. After a while, there will be no incentive to resume old habits."

Readers also believe that the writers have done better in publicizing their cause.

The question: Which side is doing the better job of explaining their case to the public?

More than nine out of 10, 93 percent, said the writers, just 7 percent the studio bosses.

Further, media people are now even more behind the writers than before the strike, siding with them on a key issue.

The question: Who's right in the matter of revenue from the new media forms? Should the writers be getting a share of revenue? Or ought it to stay with the networks?

An earlier Media Life poll, taken just before the strike, found that 79 percent of media planners and buyers sided with the writers. In last week's poll, that figure rose to 89 percent.

Further, readers by a slight margin believe the writers will win over the studios.

Readers were asked: Of the two sides, which side do you think stands to win out in the end? Strategically, which has the greater advantage?

Slightly over half, 53 percent, said the writers, versus 47 percent for the studios.

But interestingly, more readers now think writers have more at risk than before the strike.

Media Life asked the same question in both polls: Which side has the most to lose?

In the earlier poll, just 7 percent of respondents said the writers, versus 39 percent for the networks, and 32 percent for both. The final choice, "It depends on how long it goes," got 22 percent.

In last week's poll, more than twice the number of readers, 18 percent, thought the writers had the most to lose, while those feeling the networks had the most to lose fell to 30 percent. The other numbers did not change much.

This may reflect all the news coverage of the writers focusing on how much the average writer makes, which is not an awful lot of money.

Readers are not as optimistic as they were that the strike will end quickly. In the first survey, 59 percent believed the strike would last no longer than a month. In last week's poll, which was posted before the two sides agreed to resume talks, that number tumbled to 29 percent.

Further, almost as many, 27 percent, thought the strike would last the same five months as the 1988 writers strike, and a slightly smaller number, 24 percent, thought it would last the entire season.

Invited to comment on the strike, readers unloaded their thoughts.

Here are some of their other comments:

"Producers cannot really explain why they make so much but can't afford to give back. They only care about their shareholders."

"The writers have explained that it makes sense for them to be compensated because they bring something of value to the table. The companies have given no reason why the writers should not be compensated in all media for the work that generates the value. The companies try to paint the writers as spoiled and overpaid, but that's hard to take from the same people who make tens of millions of dollars a year."

"I've seen editorials about Corporate Greed. I feel more sympathy for the writers."

"Ads run by the producers are painting the writers as dumb and greedy (see full-page ad in LA Times 11/15/07), but the public has seen more evidence over time that corporations such as News Corp., Walt Disney, and GE are greed-driven Goliaths. If the strike continues to the point that people are hurt financially, fingers will mostly be pointed at the corporations. [AMPTP head] Nick Counter's name is in danger of becoming as universally loathed in the show business world as Leona Helmsley's was in the hotel world. He is viewed as ruthless and calculating, and his reputation may never recover."

"Producers have been on the defensive about their position from the beginning. The WGA has the very public picket lines that can draw crowds & involve the public and have given interviews on the spot, while AMPTP has been more or less silent, only coming out with an ad in Variety recently."

"Neither side is going very well. I will give this to the writers, however, because I think they have the support of the viewers, which is what I think will ultimately hurt the networks."

"Most of the writers are average Joes — making a good living but definitely not making millions. The average citizen can relate to them. The producers are making millions and don't want to share the 'new' potential wealth. Most people just see that as greed. If the writers didn't write what would the producers have to produce. Fair is fair!"

"The writers have done a great job using YouTube to explain their cases in simple, entertaining ways — I actually find myself going there for entertainment breaks during the day. The studios look like callous ('this will actually help our bottom line') hypocrites (suing YouTube for $1B, for example), and are further alienating the audience."

"In general I feel like the writers have a much more compelling story. And as someone who buys DVDs and watches shows online, I was kind of horrified to find out that the writers weren't properly compensated. And since I didn't have any feeling either way before the strike, I am much more on the writers' side. Which makes me believe they are doing a better job of being convincing."

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