TV On Strike: What led to the growth of Product Placement


WGA on Strike

Cynthia Littleton’s TV on Strike Why Hollywood Went to War over the Internet is an informative look on how the Writers Guild of America (WGA) banded together to go on strike over the ever-growing media changes brought on to the television industry by the Internet. Starting in 2005, after a series of media innovations, the seven leading media conglomerates, Viacom, Time Warner, Disney, News Corporation, NBC Universal, CBS Corporation, and Sony Pictures Entertainment met to discuss the growing concerns of the WGA’s demands for fairer compensation and larger profit, mostly due to the way the Internet had been affecting the entertainment industry around 2005, allowing consumers to readily access full episodes of television programs through both legal and illegal means.

With a new generation growing up with the Internet, media conglomerates had to figure out how they could continue pushing their content in a beneficial way for all parties. In 2005, Disney was the first to start this when they allowed viewers to watch their top ABC television programs via the ABC website. Online, ABC offered their shows directly after they premiered and with fewer commercials, allowing fans and viewers to watch the episode as many times as they want, but also whenever they want. Disney also made a licensing agreement with Apple’s iTunes allowing their ABC primetime hits as well as some of their Disney Channel shows to be purchased and downloaded. This business venture was so beneficial to Disney and ABC that within the next year, the incredibly popular ad-supported online video service, Hulu, was developed by NBC Universal and News Corporation. This new way to watch your favorite shows just became the most convenient source for home entertainment. Families and friends no longer have to be seated at the same time on the same channel every week. They could choose to miss the televised premiere, catch it online later that night, or even record the televised time to their home DVR and watch it later that week. It’s a convenience that fit anyone’s schedule, benefiting the media conglomerates by keeping their viewers and attracting many more.


American Idol. Coca-Cola Product Placement

These new media technologies, however, were not yet awarding the WGA their royalties for these on-demand shows and were also making it difficult for networks to keep up their revenue from filling their commercial spots, due to the new abilities allowing viewers to be able to skip through commercials. As home DVR’s became more popular, advertisers were less likely to want to purchase those commercial spots from the network, so as Littleton notes on page 8, this “hastened the industry’s embrace of product placement and branded integration in programming.” (Littleton,8) Today, this can be seen anywhere you look in the Entertainment industry. You’ll find it in films, television, and even online shows from Netflix, Hulu and even Youtube Webisodes. Product Placement is so popular throughout television that Steve Rose points out in As Seen on TV: Why Product Placement is Bigger than ever, “In 2012, advertisers spent $8.25billion on product placement, and the market is expected to nearly double in the next five years.”  American Idol is always recognized for their many years of product placement. Most notably would be Coca-Cola, before they decided to pull their cups from the table. Breaking Bad has also been known to often times subject their audience to the sounds of Walter opening a crisp can of Coke or a bottle of Guinness.  For these shows, it is an excellent way for Networks to receive a large sum of money as well as continue to entertain their audience with devices and food that are already familiar to them. The question is, has product placement gone too far? Throughout the past number of years, product placement has reached hit Hollywood films such as Transformers with many handheld devices and technologies by Verizon, Samsung, Apple and the like. Mini Cooper in The Italian Job is also a well-recognized example within film as well as just about everything in Michael Bay’s The Island.

When it comes to online series on Netflix or Hulu, House of Cards has been widely criticized for its excessive use of product placement not only within the mise-en-scene, but also in the actual narrative and dialogue. Steve Rose explains that in one episode, Kevin Spacey’s character actually delivers a line about wanting Sony’s new device for his car and that the Los Angeles Times was even credited with saying, “‘More like House of Product Placement.’” This really makes me wonder how much product placement surrounds us everyday. Is it normal to see the characters enjoying products we use everyday, or is it too distracting. This leads me to pose the question of whether or not product placement has gone too far, or have we reached a point where the Entertainment industry has decided to embrace the concept of a full product integration, rather than simply just placed.


Littleton, Cynthia. TV On Strike: Why Hollywood Went to War Over the Internet. Syracuse University Press, 2013. Print.

Rose, Steve. “As Seen on TV: Why Product Placement Is Bigger than Ever.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 24 June 2014. Web. 6 Feb. 2015. “TV’s Old Product-Placement Era Could Be Nearing Its End.” Jamestown Sun. N.p., 5 Feb. 2015. Web. 07 Feb. 2015.


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