Prediction: Strike out before batter up



The WGA strike will end April 1. Yes, that's April Fool's Day, which might be appropriate considering how foolish making any strike predictions seems. But there are signs that point to the industry's winter of discontent thawing out in time for spring training.

April would mark a nearly five-month walkout, which approaches the 22-week strike by scribes in 1988. By then, writers will have forced the cancellation of the current TV season as well as the fall pilot season and the May upfronts, causing significant damage to the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. On the movie side, the well of filmable scripts will begin to dry up, and productions in need of rewrites will be forced into turnaround.

Also by April, the DGA likely will have secured a new contract with the AMPTP to replace a pact expiring June 30. The directors probably will secure a deal by mid-February, and the studios will suggest that the DGA pact serve as a template for new contracts with the WGA and other Hollywood guilds.

The writers will balk at that attempt, but the sting of the strike will have become even more severe. Several smaller talent agencies, management companies and casting offices that rely on television will have closed up shop, and the big agencies will have laid off nonessential assistants and junior agents.

What will a deal look like? It's a decent bet that the writers will not win a greater cut of DVDs but will gain first-time residuals in several areas of new-media content. Demands to cover reality show writers surely will be sacrificed in the process -- along with the hundreds of millions of dollars the industry already has lost to the work stoppage.