The entertainment business is in a state of flux. Writers and actresses are on strike, and streamers are worried about losing money. Lucas Shaw, a Bloomberg reporter, discusses what viewers may expect.


Terry Gross here with FRESH AIR. The film and television industries are in disarray. Striking actors and writers have forced a halt to production. Cable replaced broadcast television in terms of viewership. Cable then lost viewers to streaming TV. Broadcast cable and several streaming channels are now in jeopardy. The film business is also under jeopardy. People devote more time and money to video games than to movies, and they spend more time watching YouTube than any other television network. Big media businesses are acquiring or merging with other big media companies. Some of the acquired companies may be sold soon. Almost every company in Hollywood has slashed expenditures and laid off workers. Is the industry imploding or simply changing shape? And what does this signify for viewers and the entertainment industry’s future?

Lucas Shaw, my guest, is Bloomberg’s managing editor for media and entertainment and the creator of the monthly newsletter Screentime. He wrote for more than a decade about how the world’s largest technological giants have changed pop culture. Before we begin, I’d like to point out that the majority of FRESH AIR’s crew is a member of SAG-AFTRA, but they are covered by a different contract than the performers. I’m a member of SAG’s actor division since I’ve had several modest roles on screen, primarily as myself.

Welcome to FRESH AIR, Lucas Shaw. I think one approach to highlight how movies and television are evolving is to look at who owns what. Which megacorporations are the most powerful, and what do they own? So, can we conduct some media genealogy, for example? So let’s start with Warner Bros. Discovery?

LUCAS SHAW: All right, Warner Bros. Discovery is the merger of three previously distinct companies. There was Discovery Communications, which is best known for a slew of cable networks, including its own, as well as general lowbrow reality TV. There was Scripps Networks, which was another type of cable network bundle that featured HGTV and the Food Network. Then there’s Time Warner, which is home to the Warner Bros. film and television studio, as well as cable networks like TNT and TBS, as well as HBO. And Time Warner has undergone numerous mergers over the years. It was notably amalgamated with AOL, then separated and acquired by AT&T, the phone company, and turned into a division called WarnerMedia, which was later spun out and merged with Discovery to form Warner Bros. Discovery.

GROSS: My mind is racing.

SHAW: I believe those companies’ employees feel the same way.

GROSS: Let me just add that we consider all of the channels and firms you listed to be autonomous entities with distinct identities. And now all of the ones you just listed have amalgamated into this one massive corporation. So, do brands lose their meaning?

SHAW: So, we’re in the midst of a major rethinking of what brands imply, right? For numerous decades, people watched television through broadcast and cable networks. And there were brands that climbed to prominence and had a significant impact. In my upbringing, it was Nickelodeon, MTV, ESPN, and all of these cable networks that were among the most popular brands among young people and people of all ages. And because cable networks have begun to diminish, many of them are being sold off, consolidated, and rebranded as a result of streaming and the advent of digital media.

GROSS: Let’s continue our ancestry and head to Disney.

SHAW: So, in the last 20 years or so, Disney acquired Pixar, the animation studio. It purchased Marvel, the comic book manufacturer. It purchased Lucasfilm, the company that created and controlled all of the “Star Wars” films. Then, a few years ago, it purchased various entertainment assets from Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corporation, including major television studios, TV networks like FX, and a movie studio.

GROSS: What does Paramount Global own?

SHAW: From the CBS broadcast network to cable networks like MTV, Comedy Central, and VH1, Paramount Global owns it all. It is currently attempting to sell BET, which it owns. And it’s the merger of two firms – CBS and Viacom – that have been merged and separated throughout the years but are now all one under the Redstone family, this time Shari Redstone, the daughter of iconic media magnate Sumner Redstone.

GROSS: So, what’s the deal here? Is this being done to appease shareholders? Is this happening because businesses just seek a competitive advantage and as little competition as possible? What is the point of this?

SHAW: It’s partly due to the creeping demise of cable television. So, most of the largest media and entertainment firms of the previous generation – many of them today generate a lot, if not the majority, of their money from cable networks. So the company we discussed, Paramount, makes the majority of its money from a slew of cable networks. Disney may not make the majority of its money from cable networks, but it does make a lot of money from them. However, the number of individuals who pay for cable, satellite, or other kinds of television has been declining for some years, and the rate of reduction has accelerated. Now, these cable networks make money in a few different ways. They generate money through distributor fees like Comcast and Charter, and then they make money from advertising. After many, many years of growth, the advertising sector has essentially plateaued. Some have fallen, but all of the rise in advertising has been in online media.

The money they get from distributors is tremendously affected because if you go from having 95 million people paying for your channel to now having 80 or 75, that just – even if you get rate hikes – you’re just not going to make as much money. As a result, all of these media businesses recognized the writing on the wall for the cable TV market. They’re attempting to manage the downturn because it still generates a lot of profit. However, businesses have responded by either developing their own streaming services, which they see as the future, owing to Netflix’s popularity, or merging because they see potential to save costs by combining employees. They gain clout in the marketplace. When negotiating with Comcast, if you control 20 cable networks instead of 10, Comcast will find it more difficult to push you around.

GROSS: If one business owns all of these different channels, some of which are specialty channels like Turner Classic Movies or HBO, how much does the parent firm care about specific channel identities? – Because it all boils down to profit and, you know, beating out the competition. So some things that are truly valuable cannot be quantified solely in terms of profit and comparison to the metrics of other organizations. So, am I incorrect to be concerned about the gradual annihilation of individual identities?

SHAW: I believe it depends on whatever individual identities are important to you. So you’re accurate that many of these networks and brands that people have grown attached to over the years are disappearing or being starved, right? Many of these media organizations, you know, have transferred resources from cable networks to streaming or are concentrating resources on a few networks. As an example, consider Warner Bros. Discovery had a period where they were producing original content for TNT, TBS, and other networks. They don’t actually do that anymore. Or you – we’ve discussed Turner Classic Movies. They believe they have committed too much money in that brand, thus they are significantly reducing their investment.

Disney has recently spoken up. The CEO, Bob Iger, stated in an interview that his television assets are “non-core,” which is code for “for sale.” That implies a network like ABC, which has been established for decades, may be in play. And so, if that’s important to you, it’s worrisome for the employees at those companies, and for some of the viewers. The counterargument is that new brands have emerged, and so if you really like Hulu or if you really like Disney+, it may serve as a replacement for what ABC has been for decades.

GROSS: You claim that Netflix and YouTube will eventually account for the same amount of TV viewership as all of the broadcast networks combined. That’s an incredible thought to have.

SHAW: And the truth is, that could be occurring right now. However, the gauge for it is this Nielsen statistic dubbed The Gauge, which primarily counts television viewership. Consider how much YouTube viewing occurs on a mobile device, and the total amount of time viewing those two could have already been exceeded. But, over the last decade or so, Netflix and YouTube have been the two companies that have completely revolutionized the entertainment and media business from two ends – you know, Netflix at the premium high end, very much like HBO, but breaking a lot of the rules of how the entertainment business has worked, and then YouTube at the lower end, creating this new generation of user-generated content that a lot of people love.

GROSS: And, of course, Google owns YouTube. So we’re back in the world of multinational corporations.

SHAW: Consider how large YouTube is – billions of people, the most watched video service in the world, the most utilized music service in the world. And it was so minuscule in the larger Google – or Alphabet, as the parent firm is known – empire that they didn’t even break out the revenue from YouTube until a few years ago.

GROSS: You know what company we didn’t name – I don’t think – and what they now own? Amazon.

SHAW: Amazon, like Netflix and Apple, developed its own studio from the ground up. They began over a decade ago. They have a video streaming service, you know. They also offer a store where you can rent movies and other services. So it’s a hybrid original streaming service, similar to Netflix, but with the shopping component that we all identify with Amazon. And they fund a lot of original television shows and movies for Prime Video’s original service. Some of their early hits included “Transparent,” “Mozart In The Jungle,” and “The Boys.” They also have a show called “Jack Ryan,” and they have “The Boys.” And they recently purchased MGM – you know, the iconic Hollywood studio that operates in both film and television – for about $8.5 billion, primarily to serve up intellectual property for exploitation across film and television. It will also enable Amazon release movies in cinemas, which is something they want to do but Netflix has so far refused to do.

GROSS: Let’s take a quick break here and then continue talking. If you’re new here, my guest is Lucas Shaw, who works for Bloomberg News and covers the evolving media landscape. We’ll be right there. This is NEW AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR, and I’d want to return to my interview with Lucas Shaw, a Bloomberg News reporter who covers the media sector and its shifting landscape. And we’re talking about the shifting media landscape in the film and television industries, which is the backdrop for the writers and performers who are currently on strike.

So, let us return to Disney. To summarize, they control Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, ABC, FX, and ESPN. And the CEO, Bob Iger, stated last week that he is considering selling their television holdings. And, as you mentioned, he stated that they may not be core to Disney. So, what assets is he selling and why? ABC was mentioned.

SHAW: He didn’t say what he was going to sell. On ESPN, which has been the topic of much speculation for many years – because ESPN was truly the crown gem of the cable package. It gets the most money – or Disney gets the greatest money from cable companies – several bucks a month from everyone who has cable. However, ESPN has been hit harder than others by the drop, and Iger has stated that he would be open to a collaboration.

It’s worth noting that Hearst already owns a portion of ESPN. So Disney owns and controls the majority, but not the entire company. So, if it sells to a partner but retains ownership, it is only playing with around 30% of the company. There has been much speculation about who would or would not be interested in acquiring ESPN or a portion of it. Is that something that internet corporations like Apple and Amazon, which invest in sports, would be interested in? Is that what gaming businesses like DraftKings and FanDuel want? Is it a private equity firm? It’s a little hazy.

GROSS: Warner Bros. President David Zaslav. Discovery – which owns a lot of stuff, as we mentioned – sees him as indicative of the changes that the industry is going through today in television and movies, according to some industry observers. So, could you please elaborate on his participation in all of this? What, for example, is he doing that makes him a symbol of these changes?

SHAW: For a long time, David Zaslav was a part of the mogul class, albeit with a relatively small empire. You know, Discovery Communications – you know, he got paid like a Bob Iger, you know, 40, 50, $60 million each year. He attended all of the appropriate conferences. He had all the right people around him. But his empire was modest. Then he pulls off this incredible deal in which he convinces AT&T to sell them WarnerMedia and swallows the entire company. The issue he has is that the resulting corporation has a massive amount of debt, approaching $50 billion. That’s not all due right immediately; in fact, much of it isn’t. However, in the long run, he must find a means to pay that off.

GROSS: Hold on. Can I quit since you said 50 billion? – but with a B?

SHAW: That’s right, 50 billion with a B.

GROSS: That is a significant amount of debt.

SHAW: There’s a lot.

GROSS: All right.

SHAW: And he still has most of these cable networks, which are at best stable and at worst falling. And he has a streaming service – or two, in fact. He had Discovery Plus and HBO Max, which were doing well but not on the scale of Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon, or even Hulu, at least in terms of how much time people spent viewing it. As a result, he has spent much of the last year and a half just lowering expenditures, which has included terminating employees. That has been the case with shelving projects.

You know, he was a pioneer of this new technique in which people would take shows off streaming services. We’d become accustomed to the concept that shows would be released and remain available on streaming sites indefinitely. He yanked some of them down thinking it was a good way to save money. They had completed projects, such as “Batgirl,” but did not release them. And many in Hollywood’s creative community saw Zaslav as a totem for everything they thought was wrong with the business: that it had become too centralized, that everything was about the bottom line, and that no one cared about the artist.

Now, the truth is that I believe the firm has operated in this manner for a long time. But there’s no denying that the industry has been plagued by existential dread and perpetual turbulence for many years, and he is a symbol of it all. And he, along with Disney’s Bob Iger, have become quasi-villains in the labor dispute because they get paid so much money, they’ve cut all this staff, and it just doesn’t seem like they’re fully in touch with the regular worker in their business, and they don’t value the regular worker in their business.

GROSS: How much does Zaslav make?

SHAW: It varies by year, but suffice it to say, I believe he’s earned more than $1 billion in pay over the course of his career. There was a recent year when it was at least a couple of hundred million dollars. Much of that was attributable to stock and the transaction he carried out. These CEOs, you know, are extremely sensitive to criticism and will quickly point out that, oh, well, some of it is dependent on stock and our stock is down, so I’m not going to get paid that much money. But David Zaslav has been earning tens of millions of dollars every year for at least a couple of decades and owns a large number of residences. And, you know, I don’t think anyone will be concerned about him or several generations of his family.

GROSS: Right. So he’s extremely wealthy, has a large salary, including stock options, and yet he’s laying off thousands of workers. And, as you mentioned, the parent corporation is now $50 billion in debt. Are shareholders applauding him for this?

SHAW: No, it does not. The company’s answer last year – in 2022, the company’s shares sank substantially. You know, the value was pretty much eviscerated due of the unfavorable reaction to the company’s direction. It has now recovered to some extent this year, but it is still significantly lower than when it went public. So – and this is linked to a broader cynicism about the future of these media firms because he sits on a bunch of networks that aren’t producing more money. The advertising business is extremely volatile, and consumer trust in their streaming service is low.

These corporations have gone from bragging for years about how much money they were spending on new programming to build up these services to now bragging about how much money they’re saving. So, with the exception of Netflix, you could say he has now slashed enough to instill some trust, but it’s difficult to identify a media firm in which Wall Street has a lot of faith right now.

GROSS: But CEOs like Zaslav aren’t being punished with pay cuts or – you know, we’re $50 billion in debt, so we’re going to slash, like, $10 million from your salary or something like that, while so many people are laid off at the parent company’s subsidiaries.

SHAW: Many individuals in Hollywood have asked for these CEOs to forego their whole income and contribute it to some of the employees who have been dismissed or laid off, if not cut it. Or it’s certainly been a key talking point in both the writers’ and actors’ strikes, when workers have held to high salaries as proof of how out of touch bosses are. The executives would argue that the board authorizes it and the shareholders approve it, but in certain cases the shareholders do not, and that there is no relationship between their salary and some of these other activities.

GROSS: Okay, let me reintroduce you. If you’re new here, my guest is Lucas Shaw, a media reporter for Bloomberg. After a brief break, we’ll discuss how the film and television industries are evolving and how this is hurting the writers and actors who are now on strike. This is FRESH AIR with Terry Gross.

GROSS: Hello, my name is Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR. Returning to my chat with Lucas Shaw, a Bloomberg media business reporter. And we’re talking about the shifting environment – the significantly changing landscape in the film and television industries – and how that’s the backdrop for Hollywood’s current writers and actors strike.

Streaming was a terrific business when Netflix had the entire market to itself. Every channel and network now appears to have a streaming app. With so much competition, how has it altered the playing field?

SHAW: Well, Netflix and all of these other streaming services launched in an atmosphere where shareholders encouraged them to spend money on expansion. Interest rates were extremely low. Borrowing money was inexpensive. So you saw this across the media industry – and also across the technology industry – of deferring profits, of not needing to show profitability right away because you were trying to build out your service. For many years, this worked in Netflix’s benefit. And many of these other companies attempted to imitate it. The problem was that when everyone tried to replicate Netflix, there was a lot of rivalry for attention. They are all spending more money than they have in the past. You know, there was just a massive rise in output. We jumped from roughly 200 written TV shows released in 2009 to nearly 600 last year, effectively tripling the number. And there is a finite amount of attention, advertising dollars, and money that people can spend on that.

As a result, many businesses realized they were unable to compete. And this occurred at the same time or in the same time zone as inflation and the macroeconomic picture began to shift. As a result, investors expect these enterprises to be profitable. So they’re all in this really difficult situation where they’re significantly less profitable than they used to be at a time when that’s what Wall Street is focused on, so their share values are down. And there is no simple remedy since streaming was meant to be the answer, the rescuer. And no one seems to know how that will work.

GROSS: One of the reasons Netflix is still profitable despite the industry’s instability and change is because they are truly a worldwide corporation, with a large portion of their revenue coming from other nations. They’re even doing shows in other countries in other languages that are intended to be seen there.

SHAW: Approximately two-thirds of Netflix’s customers are located outside of the United States and Canada. They have a lot of consumers all around Europe, especially in Western Europe. They have a large customer base in countries such as Brazil and Mexico. They have a large consumer base in Australia and are rapidly expanding in locations like Japan and South Korea. And one of Netflix’s – you know, maybe not innovations, but one of the things I’ve liked the most about it despite its many shortcomings – is that it has united the world through programming. As a result, it has made significant investments in South Korea and in popularizing Korean dramas not only in Asia but throughout the world. They’ve – I believe they now generate original content in at least a couple of dozen nations.

And they’ve got titles, whether it’s “La Casa De Papel,” known in the United States as “Money Heist,” “Lupin” from France, or, maybe most famously, “Squid Game” from South Korea. Although the majority of people continue to watch television in their native language, Netflix has taken advantage of and developed creative classes in these other nations. It also benefits financially because the cost of producing concerts in a place like South Korea is far lower than in the United States.

GROSS: Do you believe Netflix subscription fees will be hiked further in the near future?

SHAW: Of course it is. I mean, they’re – I don’t think it’s going to happen soon. They’re in the process of eliminating one of their cheapest categories, which is referred to as the basic tier. However, there is a lot of sensitivity surrounding rising costs right now because of competition and simply because of inflation, where there is concern that many people may opt out. And, if you think about it, charging for password sharing is a form of price increase. It is simply boosting prices on folks who were not previously paying.

GROSS: I’d like to ask you about Amazon, since they’re a major player in the film industry right now. At the same time, I was startled to read in your reporting how much money they’ve spent on unsuccessful films or TV programs. We’re talking about a $250 million budget, which is what they spent on one season of “Citadel,” which barely entered the top 10. So, what’s the deal with how they’re gambling on movies and those bets aren’t paying off?

SHAW: Well, one of the byproducts of this – the initial exuberance and enthusiasm for streaming – was that the cost of making shows skyrocketed because new players like Netflix and Amazon had to convince famous writers, directors, and actors to work with them. And the method to accomplish this was to pay them more than they were receiving elsewhere. And you saw a lot of movie stars move into television because you could suddenly get paid a million and a half an episode, $2 million an episode, or $3 million an episode. Directors – you know, on the show “Citadel” you mentioned, Joe Russo, who along with his brother has worked on some big Marvel movies and they were producers on many other movies and TV shows – he’s going to get paid $25 million or around $25 million for his work on the second season of “Citadel.” That’s a pretty good payday for six to eight episodes of work.

In the case of Amazon, in particular, I believe they have been caught between two impulses: early on in streaming, everyone seemed to want to justify what they were doing by producing award-winning premium television like HBO. Netflix famously stated that they wanted to become HBO before HBO became Netflix, which I believe they accomplished very well. Amazon has also supported a significant amount of prestige programming. However, when you consider the core Amazon client, it is not someone who lives in Los Angeles or New York. Sure, there are many Amazon users there, but Amazon is primarily a mass market commerce service. Many of their consumers, you know, are not elite or wealthy. And so they did – they sought to deliver a combination of prestige television and more meat-and-potatoes type stuff. And the latter has been far more successful. But they’ve spent a lot of money on shows that are sort of in the middle, if you will, or that shouldn’t have cost nearly as much. You know, in the previous six to twelve months, they’ve launched maybe a half-dozen series that cost more than a hundred million dollars for a season, which is a lot of money, and only one or two of them could be considered successful in terms of audience.

GROSS: Barry Diller, the founder of Fox Broadcasting and USA Broadcasting, recently told Brooks Barnes, a reporter for The New York Times – and he was referring to Apple and Amazon, which now control a lot of the viewing – that you now have in control tech companies that don’t care or have any idea about the entertainment business. Each of these companies’ minor business, rather than their core business, is entertainment. Nonetheless, because of their size and influence, their small interests take precedence over any future decision.

So, do you think there’s any truth to what he’s saying, that with Apple and Amazon’s power in the media industry now, in television and movies, that they’re controlling a lot of the industry, but they’re not really – they don’t really care about movies and television, that they’re tech companies and not entertainment companies?

SHAW: You know, I feel like Barry Diller has been proclaiming the death of Hollywood for a long time now, so I take what he says with a grain of salt. But he is correct that the expansion of Amazon and Apple, which are now two of the six main studios in town – you know, they’ve replaced some of the others that have been consolidated in the mergers we’ve discussed – entertainment is not their primary business. And it points to the somewhat diminished significance of traditional film and television in broader culture, where it – as does the fact that YouTube is now larger than any TV network, that TikTok is as popular as any streaming service.

Film and television no longer have the same control on culture and youth that they once did. And if I were in charge of one of these classic media and entertainment businesses, it would be Warner Bros. It would certainly concern me if two of our top competitors didn’t care as much about earning money from cinema and television as we do since it implies the stakes are lower. The method will be different. And entertainment is simply a means of selling something else – in Amazon’s case, diapers, books, or whatever; in Apple’s case, phones and other things.

GROSS: Let’s take a quick break here and then continue talking. If you’re new here, my guest is Lucas Shaw, who works for Bloomberg and covers the media sector. We’ll be right there. This is NEW AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR, and I’d want to return to an interview I did yesterday with Lucas Shaw, a Bloomberg reporter who covers the evolving media sector. And we’re focusing on the film and television industries, and how the entire business has been in disarray.

Let’s speak about the actors’ and writers’ strikes, and how what they’re asking for is a result of all of the things we’ve been discussing. Let’s start with the money and how they demand a cut of the proceeds from successful films and TV shows they create.

SHAW: When Netflix came around, a big part of their model was that they were going to pay people more upfront but buy out what’s known in the entertainment industry as the back end and sort of a profit share. Because when a movie comes out – say, “Mission: Impossible,” which is currently in theaters – Tom Cruise, the star of the movie and a producer in that movie, gets a cut of the movie’s revenue profits, that sort of thing, which is incredibly lucrative on a big hit. I believe Robert Downey Jr. made tens of millions of dollars from his profit portion in one of the “Iron Man” films. The streaming model flipped that, so you got paid more up front but didn’t have the same advantage or success.

In principle, this should have benefited everyone more, right? – because they treated every show as if it were a success. However, it also meant that when you had a huge success, you might not have gotten as much, or that because there was less transparency about viewing, you didn’t have the statistics to understand what was going on with your project. So there are all these things that Netflix brought that people now look back on and sort of regret consenting to, or it is a fundamental point that they are pressing for in these discussions.

GROSS: What else can we learn about the strikes and reconfiguration of the film and television industries that we’ve been discussing?

SHAW: One of the reasons I believe you’re seeing this labor slowdown is that workers in this industry believe they’re being taken advantage of. You know, there’s been this enormous surge in film and television output. That implies the workers are under greater strain than ever before because they are producing three times as much television and a lot more movies. And they don’t feel like they’re getting paid as much since the money is presumably being distributed to a wider range of people. And the folks at the top are still doing quite well, but the people in the middle and bottom aren’t faring as well. Some of that is tied to how residuals work and how individuals are compensated for reruns, which streaming has reshaped.

At the same time, media companies are claiming that they are losing money on these streaming services. You’re asking for enormous wage raises, which we can’t offer you because we’re trying to make our businesses operate. As a result, the negotiations and these contracts occurred at a very perilous time for these two parties, both of whom felt disgruntled.

GROSS: I believe all sides of the strike recognize that the industry is in trouble. COVID turned everything off. And everyone on both sides of the strike was attempting to recover and expecting that the industry would rebound. As a result of the strikes, everything is once again shut down. That appears to be an incentive for both parties to stay at the table and try to resolve this so that the industry can begin to recover. Why isn’t that a compelling enough reason to reach an agreement?

SHAW: Well, in the case of the performers, I believe they spent some time attempting to strike an agreement with the studios. And it was clear that they were too far apart. And once you go on strike or make the decision to go on strike, you have to spend at least a few weeks putting pressure on the other person to see if it will get them back to the table and alter their ideas.

You are correct that a long labor stoppage, particularly one resulting from COVID, is not helpful for anyone, especially given the other issues in the business that we have discussed. You know, it’s nearly a given that there will be a significant gap in the movie release calendar next summer. That will not benefit anyone. Depending on how long the strike lasts, all of these streaming services will be short on programming next year. That will not benefit anyone. Obviously, despite having signed a contract, all of these authors, performers, and directors are out of work because there isn’t a lot of production to go around. They aren’t making any money.

But I believe that the guild and the union both believe that this is their moment and that they must draw a line in the sand. They’ve watched the impact of streaming over the years and believe they haven’t garnered enough benefits from it. The last time writers went on strike was at the dawn of the streaming industry, in 2007, 2008, just as Netflix and Hulu were launching. As a result, this one acts as a sort of coda to the age of this streaming boom, where everyone now wants to figure out how to get paid more effectively.

For the media firms, I believe part of the problem is that, in the short term, they benefit from the strike since they are not spending as much money to produce programmes. That is short-term thinking. It is not beneficial to them in the long run. And that does not apply to every business. But, if you’re a Bob Iger or a David Zaslav worried about expenses, not having to make TV shows for a few months isn’t the worst thing in the world. That doesn’t mean I think they desire a strike, but it does mean that the cost of taking a few months off isn’t as high as it could have been when they were trying to launch a service a few years ago.

GROSS: Do you believe this will have a long-term impact on how TV networks and cable companies program themselves?

SHAW: It’s possible. I recently spoke with a senior executive at one of these companies. And maybe some of the things they’re doing in prime time on a network work, and they keep going? Do they preserve a 90-minute edition of “Survivor” if a network has 90 minutes of it and people watch it? You know what I’m worried about for some of these firms is that viewership for many of these shows has already been declining, right? So, if you have late-night shows like Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert, they’ve been off since the writers’ strike began. They’ll be gone for months. How many of those viewers will never return?

GROSS: Correct. You form new habits.

SHAW: Whether it’s TikTok and YouTube or starting to watch something on Netflix instead. You know, if you look at the – Netflix’s share of TV viewership touched an all-time high in June. Is this because people are spending less time viewing traditional television? It very well may be.

GROSS: Well, Lucas, I want to thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Also, thank you for covering media and the shifting scene.

SHAW: I appreciate the opportunity. It’s been an honor.

GROSS: Lucas Shaw is Bloomberg’s managing editor for media and entertainment and the creator of the monthly publication Screentime. Following a brief intermission, book critic Maureen Corrigan will recommend two works for summer reading. This is NEW AIR.


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