According to Nikki Finke, the Screen Actors’ Guild strike authorization vote will take place in January (75% required to pass) and the results will be in on January 23.
Again, if the actors vote to authorize a strike, that doesn’t mean there will be a strike immediately, just that the union’s leaders will have the power to call a strike if they want to. This means that if a strike does happen, it’ll probably be some time after the end of January — since negotiations will have to break down completely before that can happen. This suggests the possibility of a weird sort of stalling process; if the producers don’t think SAG’s demands are acceptable, it’s still in their interest to draw out negotiations as long as possible so they can get as much material in the can as possible. An actors’ strike is more immediately damaging than a writers’ strike, because there’s no possibility of continuing production after the strike begins (so if the actors go on strike in, say, March, shows can still write the scripts for the rest of the season, but a fat lot of good it’ll do them), but it won’t be quite as damaging if TV shows have a chance to complete their season orders before it happens, so I could see a scenario where you get a lot of false starts and stops to the negotiations, until they finally break down in April or something.
The most disruptive actors’ strike in recent memory was the 1980 strike, which started after the end of the TV season but ran into the fall, delaying the beginning of the TV season and causing every show to end up with smaller-than-usual episode orders. That strike was about, you guessed it, new media — the actors demanded a cut of the proceeds from commercial videotapes and pay TV re-broadcasts.Of course that strike was easier to sustain because AFTRA, the other actors’ union, was in on it, whereas this time it won’t be.
Of course, if there is an actors’ strike in 2009, the picket lines will be on the whole a lot prettier than the writer pickets of 2008.