If Hollywood's writers and big producers are fighting a war, the latter seem to be suffering the heaviest casualties. Since launching their strike nearly three months ago, members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) have managed to derail the Golden Globes awards ceremony; condemn hit television series such as Heroes and 24 to limbo and put the highly anticipated sequels to The Da Vinci Code and Superman Returns on ice. Sure, the writers have lost some wages - worth more than US$300 million, according to their foes, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). But plunging ratings and ad revenues could end up costing the AMPTP a lot more - the last strike of this magnitude, in 1988, lasted almost 22 weeks and bled the industry of almost US$900 million in today's dollars. Worse, the WGA has cleverly adopted a divide-and-conquer approach under which it's inking deals with individual networks prepared to meet its conditions, and in Tinseltown's rabidly competitive landscape no studio wants to be left behind. The writers' key demands, including a cut of the profits studios earn from DVD sales and online broadcasts and distribution, which make up a growing percentage of their revenues, are supported by other unions home and abroad, the majority of the people of the United States and even the Democratic presidential candidates. Also, the gulf between the writers and their bosses doesn't appear all that wide - the AMPTP has already indicated its willingness to cough up around half of the 2.5 per cent of 'new media' earnings that writers want. So why have the producers been so reluctant to cave in, or at least negotiate with the WGA? According to the AMPTP, there's a lot more than new-media revenues at stake. It's incensed by the guild's insistence that writers for animation and supposedly unscripted reality TV series should be entitled to union benefits. It also wants any agreement on internet revenues to have a maximum shelf life of three years, given 'how quickly the internet marketplace is changing'. For their part, writers are still smarting over the income they lost by not fighting for a bigger portion of home video sales in the 1980s, which producers then argued were inherently unstable and should not entitle scribes to much more cash. With both sides stepping up the rhetoric, Hong Kong-based fans of cliff-hanger dramas such as Lost have been left wondering if their favourite shows are going to grace the box again. Thankfully, this is one time the tardy arrival of US television to Hong Kong shores works to our advantage - according to local industry insiders the strike could persist for at least a few more months before terrestrial or cable broadcasters here have to start relying on reruns of major shows, and they have a year's worth of tapes to get through for some series. (If the strike is over by the time you read this, its impact on Hong Kong will have been negligible). Angry exchanges aside, the shutdown does not look likely to extend into another US television season - the WGA-allied Directors Guild of America recently struck a truce with producers which, rumour has it, will facilitate an industry-wide settlement.