Outside editorial: Entertainment extends far beyond television

Posted: Thursday, November 08, 2007

The walkout by the Writers Guild of America is hardly long enough for either side to register any effect aside from the spate of reruns on late-night TV and Comedy Central.

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While the writers were walking the picket lines, however, consumers around the world were buying more than 1.8 million pocket-sized music and video players, 600,000 video game machines and countless video games to play on them. They picked up 140,000 camcorders and 9 million cell phones, at least 1 million of them capable of tuning in video from the Internet.

Put another way, consumers are rapidly equipping themselves to tap into entertainment sources that don't contribute a dime to Hollywood or the writers union. It's not a rebellion as much as an evolution, powered by forces that didn't exist during the last guild work stoppage in 1988. The disruptive technology in those days was cable TV and its expanded channel lineup. Now, it's the Internet, digital video recorders and game consoles.

Another difference from 1988 is that the digital transformation is happening with stunning speed. YouTube went from zero to 100 million clips viewed each day in seven months.

That's why both sides would be ill-served by a protracted walkout, particularly when the sticking point is Internet revenue. The risk is that, in the interim, viewers will drift completely out of Hollywood's reach.

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