SAG Strike Aftermath

SAG/AFTRA actors are expected to return to work today. But some in the industry worry that the 6-month-old conflict did lasting harm 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 going 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 accounted for half of the total spots produced during the strike, which the Joint Policy Committee estimates at 10,000.

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

David Perry, director of broadcast production at Saatchi & Saatchi, 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,” he said, “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, New York, said he won’t necessarily take more production overseas, but that clients have become accustomed to lower costs. “It’s going to fall 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 Santa Monica, Calif.-based Colby Effler & Partners, said he anticipates runaway production will return to pre-strike levels. “Most agencies like working with the union [talent].”