An optimistic note

Advertisers rep sez strikes won't happen

NEW YORK — Ira Shepard, who negotiated for advertisers in last year’s SAG/AFTRA strike, is optimistic that there won’t be a strike this summer by the Screen Actors Guild.

Shepard told ad execs at the Assn. of National Advertisers TV Advertising Forum on Thursday that SAG members do not want to go through another strike after the “pain” they endured during last year’s six-month commercial strike. SAG’s film-TV contract runs out June 30.

Shepard also predicted that while the Writers Guild of America may not reach an agreement by its May 2 expiration, the scribes won’t strike. Instead, he forecasted, the writers will extend the current contract until a new one can be negotiated.

Shepard said several factors favor a settlement rather than a strike by SAG. He stressed that the SAG moderates are gaining strength, even though there continues to be infighting within the org and between SAG and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, which negotiates jointly with SAG on the pact though its member participation on the contract is minimal.

“SAG people say AFTRA doesn’t have a big stake in film and television, while AFTRA people say SAG will drag them into another strike,” he said.

Cost is deterrent

SAG’s recognition of the financial cost of the commercial actors’ strike, according to Shepard, is the most promising sign that there won’t be an actors strike.

SAG recently reported that, due to the strike, actors’ earnings from commercials dropped slightly over $100 million to $529.8 million in 2000 compared to the previous year.

Shepard said that the real loss is closer to $300 million, including next year’s lost residuals. “We know they’re actors, not accountants, but it doesn’t take an accountant to make those numbers work,” he said.

SAG leaders, however, have long disputed Shepard’s estimates of a carry-over impact from the strike.

Shepard also asserted that SAG hurts its cause when it turns to celebrities to represent the union as it did during last year’s strike. “This negotiation doesn’t affect celebrities since they’re paid 100 times scale. The public sees rich celebrities and has no sympathy for the union,” he said.

Unhappy younger demos

Meanwhile, advertisers expressed concern that if there is a strike, TV viewership will decline. “Younger demos will not be happy with programs that are subbing for sitcoms and dramas,” said MediaVest CEO Donna Salvatore. “They’ll be the first ones to defect.”

ABC Television Network sales prexy Mike Shaw said that the Alphabet web’s contingency plans will ensure that the network will continue to air original programming at least through December. Still, he said, “Everyone loses in a strike.”

Twentieth Television exec VP of ad sales and cable programming sales Bob Cesa said that while the nets have contingency plans in place, “there’s no guarantee those programs will perform as well as the regularly scheduled programs.”

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