In Harm’s Way: Industry Damaged

SAG/AFTRA actors are expected to return to work today. But some in the industry worry that the 6-month-old conflict caused irreparable damage to the U.S. commercial-production industry.

Los Angeles alone is reported to have lost $125 million in commercial-production business during the strike. “You could see the American production business go-ing the way of the American steel business because of this strike,” said Matt Miller, president of the Association of Independent Commercial Producers. He said foreign production ac-counted for half the total spots produced during the strike, which the Joint Policy Committee estimates at 10,000.

Because shops have experienced lower costs, Miller said he expects many to continue to go outside the U.S. If American production companies cannot compete, it threatens the infrastructure of the industry, he noted.

David Perry, director of broadcast production at Saatchi & Saatchi in New York, agreed that “a certain portion of the business will never come back. The threshold for leaving the U.S. was pretty high before the strike, but now it’s lower. It doesn’t have to be three commercials. It could be one.”

Texas East, co-director of broadcast production at Ogilvy & Mather in New York, said he will not necessarily take more production overseas, but that clients have become accustomed to lower costs. “It’s go-ing to fall squarely on the shoulders of the production department to explain why we can’t just run off to Canada,” he said.

East added the best talent pool is still in the SAG/AFTRA unions. The deal struck with the actors calls for a nearly 150-percent increase over the three years of the contract for unlimited play of cable spots during a 13-week flight.

Rick Colby, principal of Colby Effler & Partners in Santa Monica, Calif., said he anticipates runaway production will return to prestrike levels.”Most agencies like working with the union [talent].”CHRIS HONDROS / NEWSMAKERS/ NEWSCOM