Monday, April 28, 2008

And the fools....

...If you don't recognize the forces that play on what people watch and what they don't then you're a fool and you should be in a different business. - Roone Arledge

Take all the fools out of this world and there wouldn't be any...profit. - Josh Billings

As the major players in TV reposition themselves to generate significant new revenue on the web and through premium cable, those who discovered they are out of touch with reality are sad to watch.

Of course, executives at The CW come to mind instantly as they are so the obvious. In a curious, albeit totally foolish, move to shore up its broadcast TV ratings, this struggling network decided to discontinue streaming new episodes of "Gossip Girl" from its web site. Of course, this show's audience is the demographic that's on the web more than they are watching TV live.

Then there are the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) members along with the directors, actors and supporting trade union members. As Disney, NBCU, and News Corp., not to mention Viacom, MGM and WB, realign their positions towards web and premium channel revenue, the labor that goes into the productions has effectively lost its chance for a fair share of the wealth.

The production employees are the new WalMart employees struggling to even just keep their insurance. The writers, the directors and the actors are already members of the new middle management/semi-professional class of employees that pass through the revolving door of constantly reorganizing companies and who will be getting a smaller and smaller piece of the pie.

As a side note, the Association of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) members discovered a few years ago that they didn't need expensive stars on TV shows. It's still unclear if the former and would-be TV stars themselves have figured this out.

And the industry has discovered "outsourcing." Canadian, British and Australian shows will appear more frequently on American television either directly or indirectly, the latter being the already proliferating copies of shows created elsewhere. It will not be long before things like CGI and post-production work will be routinely done in Asia.

As I warned in this blog in December (see The Slow "Lockout" of Actors and Directors), the AMPTP members have a plan. All labor unions having contracts with AMPTP members should have walked out with the writers and not come back until the AMPTP members agreed to deals (1) fairly sharing all revenues and (2) producing most American TV content entirely in this country. They didn't act with solidarity and they have lost.

Those "militant" SAG leaders (meaning those few who know labor is losing big time) negotiating with AMPTP now know it's all over but getting whatever bone AMPTP may offer to allow them to save face. It wouldn't surprise me if that bone didn't relate to sharing DVD revenue, that revenue recently having declined substantially.

By the way, you taxpayers out there, state and local governments are now giving potential tax revenue back to the AMPTP members to entice them to come to your town. While that won't affect many communities, some of you will join labor as losers in the TV industry realignment.

On the other hand, those nostalgic for old TV shows are the big winners in the new realignment once they figure out how to watch streaming TV on the web.