As the Writers Guild Of America (WGA) strike approaches its third month, consumers should be on the lookout for the lasting effects of the extended strike.
- With no end in sight yet for the writers’ strike, fans of movies and TV shows could soon see major changes to the media they consume.
- Not only have dozens of television shows been put on hold until the strike ends, but advertisers are now hesitant to buy air time.
- Media executives will fill TV slots with reruns of old shows and the few shows recorded before the strike began, but viewership will likely decline without new content to entice consumers.
- Advertising revenue on cable has already declined as more customers switch to streaming, but the writers’ strike could accelerate advertisers’ trend away from traditional television.
Why it’s news
The last major writers’ strike occurred in 2007 and lasted 100 days. During that time, studio executives had little content to fill the air time, resulting in the rise of reality television. These shows did not need writers or a script, just a compelling or unusual subject. After writers returned to studios, there was lag time for new content as writers got to work. Reality TV ruled cable—at least for a short time.
That writers’ strike changed the TV landscape, and the current-day WGA strike threatens to do the same. Favorite TV shows are being delayed or canceled, and media companies are choosing to rerun existing content.
Favorites like Abbot Elementary and The Last Of Us are on indefinite hold until the strike is resolved. Shows like Saturday Night Live and other late-night talk shows are without writers for now and remain off-air.
But traditional television is not the only thing affected—streaming favorites like Netflix’s Stranger Things, Apple TV’s Severance, and Disney+’s Andor have also paused production.
Lack of new content may annoy viewers, but for media companies, it could represent a significant loss in ad revenue. Negotiations fell through just as studios were beginning to discuss fall advertising deals.
During the last writers’ strike, production delays resulted in multiple cancellations for upcoming shows and new shows that were just beginning to find an audience were forgotten about by the time the strike resolved. Many modern-day productions are likely to meet a similar fate. The last writers’ strike cost the Los Angeles economy $2.1 billion in lost revenue, The New York Times reports.
Without viewers coming to watch new content, advertisers will be less willing to spend their money on live TV slots. Analysts predict a 3.4% advertising decline in the 2023-2024 season, totaling around $18.6 billion.
Streaming services may have a backlog of new content to release, but that could run out depending on how long the strike lasts. Without new content, streaming services could see increased cancellations.
While the WGA strike means a loss in revenue for streaming services and traditional television, the long-term consequences could be more severe for cable TV.
Last year, streaming services claimed more customers than cable and broadcast TV for the first time, The Hill reports. Streaming services had 34.8% of viewers in July compared to 32.4% of cable and 21.6% of broadcast viewers. Cable and satellite TV subscribers also dropped below half the market share.
Traditional television was already declining before the strike began, but if advertisers no longer see it as a valuable option, cable and broadcast TV’s fall could be accelerated.