Entering its fourth week, the US writers’ strike may cause collateral damage to the Hollywood studios’ presence and programming in Asia Pacific if the stop-work drags on like the 1988 strike, which lasted for 22 weeks. The strike’s short-term impact is disruption to broadcasters which screen US talk/variety shows and those which have been airing US series close to their US transmission dates. In the medium-to-long term, the risk is that broadcasters in the region will reduce their acquisition budgets and spend more on local programming. “We don’t see an immediate shortage in programs, but for those broadcasters who are programming US series quite close to the US airings, there will be gaps,” said Ross Pollack, Senior Vice President, Distribution, Asia, at Sony Pictures Television International. The Velvet Channel, a new, female-skewed cable entertainment network in the Philippines, will be forced to air repeats of strike-affected US daily talk shows. “The strike’s timing is unfortunate as we just launched three new channels (the others are sports service Balls and male-skewed entertainment channel Maxxx), but we do have a stockpile of inventory which we will have to tap into,” said Macie Imperial, Head of Acquisitions at Creative Programs, Inc, a subsidiary of ABS-CBN. Tim Worner, Programming and Production Director at Australia’s top-rating Seven Network, said: “Seven had a plan if a strike eventuated and right now we’re pushing the buttons on the appropriate stages of that plan. We are looking at turning a problem into an opportunity and have fast tracked a number of projects on the development slate accordingly. Seven’s momentum this year has been underpinned by local productions and that’s the aim again for 2008.” Worner adds, “It’s a bit early to pinpoint exactly when new episodes of series may run out but there’s a few levers we can pull in the schedule to push deeper into next season with first run product. Also, Seven has adhered to a minimal repeats policy these last couple of seasons and obviously that’s something we may have to review.” If the strike persists, Network Ten Head of Programming Beverley McGarvey says, “We will up the ante on domestic product and transfer some of the budget from acquisitions.” McGarvey indicates Ten will look at that option if, in the worst case scenario, the dispute hasn’t been resolved by next February, which coincides with the start of the 2008 ratings Down Under. Ten is fortunate that its new US series were full season orders, so Ten expects to have 13 episodes of Women’s Murder Club and 12 eps of Back To You, plus 13-14 of its hit House. A Nine Network Australia spokesperson said: “Numerous US productions will be affected by the writers’ strike; however given most of Nine’s productions haven’t been fast-tracked, we believe there is currently no threat to the network’s programming opportunities for 2008.” The strike has delayed the start of several high profile films including The Da Vinci Code sequel Angels & Demons, director Mira Nair’s Shantaram, starring Johnny Depp, and Oliver Stone’s Pinkville. Writers’ Guild reps are due to resume talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on Nov. 26.