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Zucker Warns That Actors Strike Could Seriously Damage TV Business

Apr 7, 2008  •  Post A Comment

NBC Universal president-CEO Jeff Zucker delivered a dire warning today about the impact of an actors strike, saying it could be “incredibly devastating” on network TV.
Speaking at the International Advertising Association’s annual World Congress in Washington this morning Mr. Zucker said the recent Writers Guild of America strike had hurt Hollywood, the state of California and the entire TV industry, and a follow-up strike by actors could cause real economic damage.
“If we go through that again, I severely question both the economy, given the state of the economy we are already in, and the future on the broadcast side,” he said. “The fact is I don’t think it would have an impact on the film business. Our film business has prepared. But it would have a real impact on the television business, and I don’t think the economy or the television business would be able to survive something like that.”
Mr. Zucker’s comments came as part of a wide-ranging conversation during the event.
He also said traffic on the Hulu site, created by News Corp.’s Fox and NBC Universal to offer network TV content has doubled projections since it went live several weeks ago and that advertising is sold out, although more opportunities are being created.
He said advertisers are interested in the site because they have more assurance of the content they are getting.
“Advertisers want to be on something where you know what you get and not on something where you could be advertising a cat on a skateboard,” he said.
He added that conversations with CBS, Disney and Viacom to join Hulu are continuing.
“I am hopeful that they will be part of it in the years ahead,” he said, adding that while NBC Universal has given the site exclusive rights to content, other partners don’t have to provide content to Hulu exclusively.
Mr. Zucker said NBC moved to Hulu more quickly in response to Apple’s unwillingness to set up pricing models that would value new episodes of NBC’s “The Office” differently from library episodes of shows such as “The Rockford Files.” However, he remains hopeful that NBC can work out a content deal with Apple that reflects different pricing, much as Apple has offered for movies.
He also said that while NBC would like to offer more digital content, the economics of digital still don’t adequately offset analog pricing.
“The economics are not the same as the analog economics you get with a 30-second commercial,” he said.
“We are in a tremendous digital transition. The problem we face today is not that we don’t want to make all of content digital. We do, but the economics are not there.
“We are cognizant that when content goes online, economics go down, but viewership goes up. The biggest concern is replacing analog dollars with digital pennies,” he said.
Mr. Zucker also said NBC has so far seen little impact from the recession, but is continuing to watch the economy closely. Meanwhile, the length of the presidential election is providing NBC some unexpected benefits both on cable and on NBC’s local stations, especially in Philadelphia.

7 Comments

  1. I commend Jeff Zucker for his upfront words regarding the devastation to television that would result if there were an actors strike.
    The Writers Guild Strike and the Directors Guild understanding should, and I emphasize, should make for valuable and amenable guidelines for a resolution to the needs of the actors in a timely fashion ahead of any contractual deadline.
    Here’s to reason winning out, which makes for a win-win for the people of the industry and the industry itself.
    Peter Bright

  2. Jeff Zucker is worried and angry. That’s okay because that comes with the job. As long as he doesn’t use the excuse that “creative people are getting us!” then he’ll be fine.
    Jeff-Boy, think back, collect yourself and go forward without blaming people. Go fight Mgmt
    or get a top guy — the way you used to be — and make things right.
    No one is trying to make your network better. I believe they are all trying to make it best. How hard is it to take that to the Board, or whomever?
    I’m too far gone to argue this, but maybe all I’m saying is go back to your gut and keep your network great.
    Jim Schock

  3. Hulu has doubled projections and sold-out advertising after a couple weeks?
    The writers lost the 100 day war.

  4. “Hulu has doubled projections and sold-out advertising after a couple weeks”…
    that’s great news to publish just ahead of SAG negotiations aimed on improving the deal for web content, especially within the body of an article articulating the devastation of another strike… will anyone be able to blame a militant SAG for holding out for better terms (even striking) given this projection?
    such wisdom at the top amazes me sometimes…

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