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Networks see some upside to a strike

November 4, 2007 | 11:40 pm

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The nation’s major television networks say they are prepared to withstand a strike by the Writers Guild of America lasting three to four months. Some industry executives even believe a strike, although potentially damaging to the business, could carry some side benefits.

If a strike were to extend into February, it would disrupt the TV pilot season, the three-month period when studios make dozens of new shows as part of an expensive annual competition to win a coveted spot on the prime-time schedule of the five broadcast networks.

The television companies collectively spend more than $400 million a year on development and pilot costs even though only a fraction of these shows achieve long-term financial success. TV executives have long complained that the frenetic competition for actors, directors and sound stages doesn’t translate into higher-quality television, just higher costs. Some hour-long pilots cost more than $7 million.

So for some TV executives, blowing up pilot season is not such a bad idea.

“Maybe the strike is giving us an excuse to shake it up,” Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly said at a recent industry luncheon. Changing the way shows are hatched, he said, would be “the only good thing that could come out of a strike.”

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