Let me leave you with a cheerful discussion topic to spend the weekend with. Let’s assume that when the WGA contract runs out Halloween night, there will in fact be a writers’ strike.
There’s been a lot of talk about what the writers would do. There’s been a lot of talk about what the networks would do: run game shows, import programs, air reality shows, etc. Interesting enough questions, but they’re not the big question.
The big question is: What would you do?
When industries are in flux, strikes have the potential to change the customers’ behavior. And few industries are fluxier than TV today. An ugly pro sports strike, for instance, runs the risk of losing some fans for good. TV, you’d think, wouldn’t be like that, because, well, it’s TV. But the last big writers’ strike, two decades ago, led to changes in primetime–particularly, the burgeoning of the newsmagazine genre–and that was a time when there were fewer other entertainment options. Who knows where TV viewers might go during a protracted strike today?
Of course, shows wouldn’t vanish overnight. Some scripted shows will have episodes banked, while others, like late-night shows, could cut back or go off the air quickly. But if a strike lasts long enough, the TV you’re used to will eventually dry up like a grassland in a drought. What replaces it could change the TV that comes after. And this time more and more of what replaces it will be things that are not TV.
The longer the strike goes on, the more attractive it’ll become to spend a night with DVDs. Or YouTube. Or Halo 3. Or Second Life. Or a book–well, let’s not get crazy, but you get the point.
I don’t want to overstate this. Clearly the great majority of TV viewers will fall back into the primetime habit whenever a strike ends. My mom, for instance, is not going to suddenly spend her time watching Rocketboom. But breaks in routines do break habits. If only a small percentage of viewers break their primetime habits–probably those viewers whose habits were shakiest to begin with–well, that’s a few percentage points the networks can’t afford to lose.
Are you one of those points? Will too many game shows and Mike Darnell reality series send you into the arms of the Internet? Will they have to pry your remote from your cold, dead fingers? Or is your plan to huddle on your living room floor, moaning softly and rocking yourself in the fetal position?
Actually, I call dibs on that one.