Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Actors Union Urges Members to Approve Strike Authorization

Strike, strike, strike. Is it just talk or is it a serious threat? Yes, people are watching the web; Comscore just released its latest metrics and they show huge year over year growth. Hulu has jumped up to 6th place and average usage per viewer has increased. But advertising revenue is dropping and online media has been difficult to fully monetize. As Jeff Zucker has said that he fears they are turning TV dollars into digital pennies. The unions are fighting for a bigger share of the digital world when they are ignoring the fact that their bread and butter revenue is drying up more quickly. "Bill Ratner, a voice-over actor who records commercials and teasers for television programs, said he will vote against authorization “partly because of the economy” and also because not enough is known about the value of online programming." Instead of following the trend, SAG needs to look at the aggregate of usage, regardless of where the content is being consumed. Take a percentage of the whole revenue, not a percentage of each distribution piece; otherwise, they will find themselves on a wild goose chase.

Back to a potential strike, with so many layoffs being announced, cities in economic hardship, and company's revenue down, now is not the time to strike. It may be an idle threat, but if it becomes reality, it will be the final straw. NBC is already reacting to the high costs of TV programming; with the announcement of Jay Leno taking 5 hours of prime time programming, they have reduced their costs tremendously. Talk shows pay very little. Inexpensive programming that can be repurposed cheaply for the web. That is how NBC will beat SAG. Add more game shows and reality programming and the unions will be fighting for non-existent jobs. And as for the movies, independent films, foreign films, and non SAG productions will find consumption. You may kill movie theater business, but viewers will find it on the web and push it to their TV.

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