The Television Critics Association has announced that it has cancelled the January 2008 Television Critics Association tour. The following announcement was sent to the members by TCA president Dave Walker:
“In a Monday telephone conversation with the Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City, it was mutually agreed that it was time to make a final decision about the January 2008 TV Tour.
“In light of the recent news concerning negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, and following my consultation with representatives of all the presenting networks, the hotel will release the hotel rooms and ballroom space the tour would occupy.
“Consider the tour officially canceled whether the strike is settled before January 8 or not.
“Because both January and July TV Tours remain valuable newsgathering opportunities for TCA members and their news organizations, this is a difficult decision. The TCA would prefer, and has steadily advocated for, a full January tour whether the strike is still on or not. Many members have expressed to me that the value of a strike tour would actually be greater than a typical January. The networks disagreed.
“From the beginning of this process, the commercial broadcast networks have cited expected budget cutbacks and their presumed inability to present panels for scripted programs as their reasons for not committing to a strike tour. More recently, the networks have also reported that a strike settlement later in December or in early January would offer difficulties in presenting tour sessions, due to logistics issues and hurry-up production schedules.
“The decision to cancel the tour now is also partly based on a moral obligation to allow the hotel to attempt to recover revenue it will lose as the result of the canceled tour. Hotel management has been flexible and sympathetic during this entire process. I’m grateful to the Universal Hilton for the spirit of cooperation and partnership it has demonstrated. Now, the hotel and its employees have become collateral damage of the strike.
“Until late last month, the TCA had been working on staging a strike tour assembled around cable, PBS, our own panels plus possible presentations by broadcast networks, though none had committed to present if a strike was still in place. An abrupt reversal by PBS, who’d been committed for several weeks to present strike or not, scotched that plan.
“Some of the broadcast networks have been asking about a drop-dead date since the beginning of this process. In my last e-mail to TCA members, I suggested Dec. 14, this Friday, as that date. The Monday conversation with the hotel has prompted me to accelerate the deadline.
“The machinations that forced this outcome were outside our control. It was and remains the TCA’s preference to stage a January 2008 TV Tour, strike or not. Given the current woeful state of the negotiations, as well as broadcast-network reluctance to present during a strike, that does not appear possible. … I apologize for this frustrating process, as well as its resolution.”
“Meanwhile, the ongoing value of both tours to TCA members obligates me to continue preparations for future tours. As you know, the nature of that business is to secure tour dates and host hotels years in the future. I have a workable contract in hand for a full tour in January 2009, and I intend to sign it very soon. Details will follow in a future newsletter. As always, the networks have been regularly updated on all future tour planning and have not objected.
“It’s the TCA’s intention to continue the TV Tour in both January and July for the indefinite future.”
What will likely happen now, depending on how long the strike goes on, is that the networks will instead present pilots in July for mid-season debuts in 2009. Normally, they would present in January for Fall debuts of their new shows.