As the Writers Guild of America and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers continue to negotiate a new contract, the prospect of one work strike — the first for writers in 15 years — looms.
The guild has one wide range of priorities for the negotiations, ranging from a higher minimum wage and expanded span protection for writers tied to a shorter TV series for an extended period of time, to “addressing the abuse of mini-rooms” and regulating the use of material produced using of artificial intelligence programs.
The WGA’s contract expires May 1, and unless a deal is reached, writers could leave shortly after. However, even before the two sides began negotiating, TV networks and streamers began taking steps to ensure that the content pipeline wouldn’t run dry — at least for a while — in the event of a strike. Here are some ways they prepare for a possible attack.
Early renewals and ongoing writers’ rooms
The May 1 deadline for the WGA’s contract comes at the end of the 2022-23 TV season, when just about every primetime network show has finished production and, at most, a few weeks after the season finale. Streaming services also have some shows already wrapped up and ready to go for several months past the contract deadline. However, late night shows can get dark quickly Saturday Night Live’s writers don’t write skits and talk shows like The Late Show with Stephen Colbert And Late night with Seth Meyers missing both the staff who write their jokes and, probably, a host of guests in other unions who wouldn’t cross the picket lines.
The real effects of a protracted labor strike — the 2007-2008 strike lasted 100 days — will likely become more apparent in the fall, when dozens of shows begin new seasons. To counter a long strike, broadcast networks have handed out more early renewals than in a normal year: CBS has already picked it up most of his primetime slateand Fox renewed three dramas (Accused, warning And The cleaning lady) and much of the animation lineup (see below). The early picks, in turn, could keep writers’ rooms open and keep scripts going for subsequent seasons of those shows, which would allow production to pick up quickly once a strike ends (assuming the Directors Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA , whose contracts expire at the end of June, do not Also strike). And yes, while early overtime should be taken as a show of confidence – Quinta Brunson’s breakaway Abbot Elementary School was collected in January – not everything will continue during the typical summer shutdown period. NBC’s first overtime this season was for rookie Quantum Leap, a surprise since pick-ups for all six Dick Wolf shows are yet to come. Susan Rovner of NBCUniversal acknowledged the big one jump was in fact due to a possible work stoppage. “That’s because we can now stay in continuous production before a possible writer’s strike happens. That’s also a shorter order,” she said TV top 5. “Dick Wolf does 22-episode shows, so there’s not the same continuous production opportunity there.”
Unscripted programming, which is not covered by the WGA agreement, helped TV stations through much of the last strike and would likely take on a similar role this time around. Summer is already prime territory for unscripted series, but some changes could be on the way as programmers finalize their plans for the summer. CBS has already opted to end the first season of its game show Lingo after eight episodes, instead of the 12 it ordered. The remaining four will be added to the show’s second season in 2023-24, giving the network many more hours to use if it needs it.
ABC, the first broadcaster to announce summer premiere dates, has a lineup with plenty of game shows as usual, but was hesitant to set a date for the miniature golf competition Holey Moley And Bachelor in Paradise. The latter aired in the fall of 2022, and both could be in play in the fourth quarter of this year if a strike continues. And in the event of a long work hiatus, viewers can likely expect a flurry of documentaries and docuseries — already a mainstay of most streaming platforms — on streamers as script production fades.
Broadcasters will also still have unscripted staples like Survivor (CBS), The voice (NBC) and The masked singer (Fox) to serve as schedule anchors regardless of a strike.
Streamers and broadcast networks have also learned lessons from the pandemic-related production interruptions to prepare for potential labor disputes. For example, Fox cited production-related challenges due to COVID-19 for its decision to push rookie Monarch until September 2022 instead of launching it in January of that year. The network recently pushed Dan Harmon’s animated comedy Krapopolis to the 2023-24 broadcast season, giving Fox a full season to use as potential filler. NBC did the same with the Greg Berlanti-produced drama Found it, which Rovner has high hopes for based on his creative. Streamers are doing the same: Apple TV+, for example, recently moved the second season of breakout comedy The after party from a late April to July debut, which while it may have something to do with the Emmy window, certainly doesn’t hurt them to have popular originals at a time when others may not.
Heap on animation
Fox, who bought Bob’s burgers animation house Bento Box has continued to pile on animated originals a few years ago as the genre can, with success, be a cash cow. (To see Rick and Morty, family man merchandising.) Because animated shows take significantly longer to produce, Fox and a number of streamers quickly invested in the space. With the long lead time, it’s reasonable to expect a number of animated shows to support Fox’s schedule if a strike impacts live-action originals on the network and elsewhere. While animation takes longer to produce, scripts are created far in advance and the total cost associated with them is much cheaper than live-action originals. Given entertainment companies’ greater mandates to cut costs – CBS’ Blue blood cuts actors’ and producers’ pay by an estimated 25 percent, sources say — the price tag on animation and lucrative merchandising opportunities make animation a safer and cheaper bet.
Remember how Fox aired the former Spectrum original drama during the early days of the pandemic LA’s best? Expect more of that – only now it’s probably coming from networks’ own walled gardens. Freeform announced it would air Hulu originally How I met your father starting in April and continuing until the end of May. HBO Originals Real blood And Silicon Valley aired on TBS in February when Warner Bros. Discovery experimented with using library content to keep viewers tuned in to the fading cable networks that no longer have US-produced originals in the works. Such a trend is not only cheaper to program, but also effectively serves as a free promotional tool to get new subscribers to HBO Max. If this trend sounds familiar, it should: During the 2007-2008 WGA strike, CBS aired edited episodes of Showtime’s Right.