The Hollywood Strike and The Dangers of Unaffordable Indy School Labor Models | Sanje Ratnavale | 9 Min Read

August 30, 2023

There are some notable parallels between the predicament of the current screenwriters’ and actors’ strikes and the situation independent schools and teachers are facing now and in the years ahead. In a nutshell, Hollywood has been facing a declining business model of movie theatre attendance and the growth of streaming services like Netflix, Apple TV+, Prime, and YouTube, threatening their current distribution channel of bundled cable TV (estimated by PwC to be reduced by 50% by 2027). The major networks decided to join the unbundling movement with the launch of their own streaming services, minimizing the importance of cable (Hulu, Paramount Plus, and Peacock). During the pandemic, actors and writers feasted on the need for unbundled content to satisfy the demand for these new streaming services. 

Because most customers craved new content, watching reruns or time-shifting original shows due to busy schedules was no longer necessary. Post-pandemic, viewing of streaming services has declined or viewers have canceled more expensive subscriptions. For the streaming services to be profitable and reduce their current losses, Hollywood needs their content creation costs to stay flat or transition to less costly programming like reality TV. And there you have the impasse. Lowering costs means reducing royalties to union members.

It is increasingly likely that schools will also control costs by unbundling services, even in the academic program. The practice is not new to the world of education—the charter school world attempted to play the role of streaming services in public education, and independent schools have long unbundled curricula by adding consortia-developed online courses that save faculty and curriculum development costs. The bundled approach has become too expensive for most private schools. Other examples of unbundling are the explosive growth of homeschooling, the growth of online schools, the rise of micro-schools, where limited programs allow for a more customized student experience, and, of course, the rise of vouchers in many parts of the country, primarily used for program-specific schools such as performing arts, STEM magnets, or charters. Still, most independent schools remain the premier bundled solution, and at the current price point, are raising serious questions about the value proposition. Perhaps one-stop shopping in the education world is too expensive.

Now let’s take the analogy further. Imagine that your cable TV service with all its bundled channels is like your school. Your subscription price is the tuition that parents pay. The…

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Sanje Ratnavale

Sanje founded OESIS in 2012 and serves as the President of what has grown to become the leading network for innovation at independent schools: the acronym OESIS grew from the initial focus on Online Education Strategies for Independent Schools. He has held senior administrative positions at independent schools including Associate Head of School at a K-12 school for seven years, High School Principal for three years, and CFO for seven years. Prior to making a switch to education, Sanje spent 15 years in venture capital, investment banking, and senior C-level (CEO, COO, CFO) management. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford University (B.A. and M.A. in Law/Jurisprudence). Sanje is based out of Santa Monica.