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Lights…. Camera….. Inaction? The Ongoing Writers Strike’s Impact on Media & Advertising

In the realm of media, an ongoing writers strike emerged as a prominent concern this summer, sending ripples through the entertainment industry and giving advertisers much to ponder. As the strike continues to disrupt production of new shows and movies, it will be imperative for advertisers to closely monitor the unfolding developments and strategize their responses to the ensuing domino effect.

The Origin of the Strike

The catalyst for this media upheaval was the Writers Guild of America (WGA), which, in May, made a decisive move by calling for a strike following a series of unsuccessful negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Acting as the labor union for thousands of writers spanning motion pictures, television, cable, digital media, and broadcast news, the WGA found itself at odds with the AMPTP, the entity representing the most influential production companies, studios, broadcast TV networks, and streaming services. Notable names like Warner Brothers, Walt Disney Studios, Universal Studios, ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and AppleTV+ fall under the purview of the AMPTP.

Key Points of Contention

The strike rests on a foundation of key disagreements that brewed during the negotiations and ultimately ignited the standoff. Among other things, central concerns include contract-related issues, the compensation structure for writers within the realm of streaming media, and the integration of artificial intelligence into the creative process. The latter has ignited discourse around the impact of technology on the skills and livelihoods of writers. The WGA members are bound by the rules of the strike, which prohibit them from rendering "writing services" or engaging in "negotiations and discussions regarding present or future writing projects." Consequently, the dearth of freshly penned content during the strike is poised to influence movie and show releases in the upcoming quarters, thereby affecting media buyers, planners, and their clients.

Expansion and Escalation

As if it wasn’t already bad enough with the strike of writers in the WGA, the situation took on a higher order of magnitude in July when the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio (SAG-AFTRA) jumped into the fray with their own strike mirroring their writer counterparts. This unified front bolstered the protest's visibility and impact, propelling the entertainment industry deeper into stasis. SAG-AFTRA, the influential trade union representing a colossal membership of over 100,000 actors, injected considerable star power into the picket lines. The likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Fran Drescher, and the cast of Parks and Recreation lent their voices and visibility to the cause, elevating public attention to new heights.

Navigating the Impact

As media stewards, the onus is on us to scrutinize this landscape and forecast its ramifications for our clients. The foreseeable future points to a decrease in the release of fresh content throughout Q3 and Q4. Consequently, media companies are poised to pivot towards live sports events and reality TV programming in an attempt to sustain the appeal of mass audiences sought by advertisers within this space.

The ongoing writers strike presents an unsettled juncture in the media industry; a juncture where the ripple effects touch upon production, distribution and audience engagement. It calls for nimble strategizing and creative adaptation as advertisers recalibrate their approaches to align with an evolving entertainment ecosystem defined by scarcity and unpredictability. Our media stewards at The Ward Group are on the front lines, helping clients proactively adapt to the shifting dynamics, ensuring that they remain resilient and resourceful in the face of these challenges.

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