Scriptwriters' overwhelming rejection of a "last" contract offer will likely result in an anemic TV season this fall, thousands of lost jobs and mounting tensions within the union, officials on both sides said Friday.
The assessment came from many film and TV executives and writers affected by what has shaped up to become one of the most severe labor disputes in Hollywood's recent history, now heading into its 17th week."This vote (to reject the contract) is awful for the industry as a whole, but especially for television," said Bob Gersh, vice-president and co-owner of the Gersh Agency, one of the entertainment industry's largest talent agencies.
"(the networks) face the possibility of losing all their first-run television programming for the fall season," he said. "The new season could now be moved all the way to January or lost altogether."
Gil Grant, a producer at Walt Disney, said, "I don't think anyone doubts that the networks will lose viewership. If you don't have new product, you have to have reruns. People will turn to video stores or cable TV."
Of the 3,722 guild members who cast their votes in Los Angeles and New York Wednesday night, 2,789, or 74.9 percent, were against the contract offered by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Only 933, or 25.1 percent, were in favor. Guild officials said the vote signaled a record turnout for the 9,000-member union.
The main issues separating the two sides have centered on producers' demand for scaled-back residuals on one-hour TV shows and a writers' demand for higher residuals for foreign sales of movies and TV programs.
As of Friday, no new talks were scheduled in the strike, which began March 7.
The beginning of the fall TV season usually falls in mid-September. Already, however, ABC, CBS, and to a lesser extent NBC, have announced delays of six and eight weeks in the start-up of their programming.
Insiders say that if the strike continues into next month or later, less than a quarter of both new and returning fall shows would be prepared for broadcast even if foreign or non-union writers are used.