Strike TV Deadline Approaches

    January 15, 2008

It’s been two months. We’re all sure our favorite shows are on their last reserves of scripts.

And now the Writers Guild of America finally means it. They’re bringing in the big guns. Er, pens.

Today is the deadline for “Strike TV” proposals. And what is Strike TV? It will be an online video channel featuring professional WGA scripts.

This is a step in the right direction for the strike, especially if they can quickly show that they can make profits from their content on the Internet by cutting out the middleman. Then, if online video viewing increases (and TV viewership decreases), then I think even Andy and I will buy the connection—and more importantly, so will the AMPTP.

However, we all know that there’s more to succeeding online than throwing a lot of content at the viewers to see what sticks. But it sounds like they’ll be doing quite a bit of that. According to the Strike TV MySpace profile (oh, doesn’t that feel official), any show of any quality, featuring any “actors,” could be accepted and aired. If you’ve ever wondered how many shows are unsuccessfully pitched each season, this could be your chance to find out.

So, while the dialogue may be better than your average YouTube fare, the production quality and acting might not. However, it’s highly likely that many WGA members have enough friends in high places (and actors who have nothing to do now that their sitcoms are out of scripts) to create slick, professional-quality content direct to the web. (Hooray for us!) At an informational meeting last week, “nearly 400 writers, DPs, camera operators, directors, actors, editors, casting directors and craftsmen” came, so the writers definitely have some support that could crank out good video.

The WGA does acknowledge that some of the shows may be successful, in which case, the owners of the show (ie its writers) are free to take it wherever they need to, including to other online channels (but probably not back onto television until the strike’s over).

Ultimately, though, the WGA isn’t framing Strike TV as the potential straw to break the camel’s back. It describes the effort as “an Internet fundraiser.” The shows, which will be up to 40 minutes long, will be ad-supported, with revenue from the ads going toward others affected by the strike, “including IATSE [stage hands et al.] and Teamsters.” While I certainly appreciate this gesture, I think the WGA is selling themselves short here—or maybe just hedging their bets.