An interesting detail from the WSJ’s strike coverage: network execs are looking at off-shoring more TV production in order to tap foreign, non-union writers to script shows. Media conglomerates like Viacom, Time Warner and NBC U have substantial cable operations abroad, and the networks import and export reality and game show formats like Endemol’s “Big Brother” and “Fear Factor” all over the world.
The diversification has major advantages: Because it licenses nearly all of its primetime dramas from Mexico’s Grupo Televisa, Spanish-language broadcaster Univision has been unaffected by the writer’s strike. It also probably has lower writers’ costs.
Offshoring won’t solve the whole problem for networks: Reality shows cross cultures more easily than scripted dramas and sitcoms do. Importing scripted dramas to skirt the striking writers would also be a significant escalation by the studios in the acrimonious talks, which have yet to resume since they broke off Dec. 7.
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