Local restaurant review show "Check Please," which was to begin its 20th season on the local public-television station WTTW, will instead end its run after the station proposed contract terms that the producers couldn't accept:
I'd like to say our upcoming 20th milestone season will be our best one ever! However, WTTW/11 and I want to go in different directions and pursue other opportunities, so it's just not to be.
Crain's has more:
The show's last contract ended in the spring of 2020, just as the pandemic forced restaurants to close. Manilow said they started new discussions about a month ago and in the last week, WTTW presented him with a new contract and he said it was so different, it didn't make sense for him to continue the relationship.
"We talked about some different ideas they had. They were so drastically different that I'm not going to get into the details," Manilow said. "There wasn't much room for negotiation. We tried but it didn't work out. If they had done what we've done the last 19 years, we'd be in production now. That's just a fact and that's their prerogative. From a fundamental standpoint, every other renewal was kind of pro forma and they'd renew."
My guess, informed by years of dealing with non-profit arts organizations, is that WTTW misunderstood how pricing and microeconomics work.
Arts organizations have a tough time making money, because (let's face it) most people don't value them highly. So there's a large supply of arts organizations and small demand. If you graph supply and demand, where they meet is the equilibrium price (where curve D1 and S meet):
If you charge more than P1, you will sell less, and probably make less money. In order to sell more (move from Q1 to Q2), demand has to move first (D1 to D2).
Unfortunately, many arts organizations try to balance their budgets by increasing prices, believing demand to be constant. Someone whips out Excel and plugs in some numbers, and voilà! Instant revenue!
But that doesn't work, and it's easy to see why.
We sell tickets to Händel's Messiah for $35 to $70, depending on the section. We have a good idea how many we sell every year in each section, so we have some confidence in our budgeting. But imagine we found out that, say, a deadly disease would require us to have an empty seat between each person in the audience, meaning we could only sell half the number of seats.
So we plug everything into Excel and figure that we can sell half as many seats for twice as much money. Cool!
Except no one wants to pay $140 for a seat at our performance. They might pay $75, but at that price would many other people would shift from the orchestra level to the balcony, so we'd wind up with even less money.
I imagine that WTTW looked at their budget and figured that they needed to pay "Check, Please!" a lot less in order to keep their books in balance. And the producers of "Check, Please!" said no, we're not adjusting our prices to help you balance your books; we can take our product elsewhere.
We'll see. It's sad when this sort of thing happens, and I wish more arts organizations would recognize that they need people with business skills in management. I expect "Check, Please!" will do just fine online.