Major studios and networks are scrambling to figure out what TV will look like, as members of the Writers Guild of America continue striking for a third week with no end in sight.
At the annual upfront presentations for advertisers, ABC unveiled a fall schedule that beefs up programming that doesn’t need writers, leaning heavily on unscripted shows like “Dancing with the Stars,” “Celebrity Jeopardy!” and “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune.”
The only scripted show, “Abbott Elementary” on what’s being referred to in Hollywood trade publications as ABC’s “strike proof” lineup will air in reruns only.
“I’ve never in my life seen a fall schedule from a major broadcast network that had reruns as sort of, like, the linchpin of it,” said Eric Haywood, a writer, producer and director known for the Fox series “Empire” and NBC’s “Law & Order: Organized Crime.”
Haywood is also a member of the WGA board and serves on the 2023 negotiating committee.
“I feel like the audience pretty soon is going to say, ‘Okay, I’ve seen enough of ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos.’ I have an appetite for ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ I’m going to go to Netflix and binge reruns of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ until original shows return.’ It seems to me like a disastrous short-sighted strategy,” he said.
Late night shows have been in reruns since the strike began, and while hosts are reportedly still paying their writers, non-writing staffers at “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” have been told Friday will be their last paycheck before an “unpaid leave of absence.”
Production on shows like “Family Guy” is also coming to a halt, after creator Seth MacFarlane walked out in support of the striking writers.
One show will go on. Writers say they will not picket Broadway’s Tony Awards broadcast in June after the show was reportedly altered to be unscripted. The announcement also shields nominees from having to cross picket lines.
Writers are striking for better pay and working conditions and want guardrails for new technologies like artificial intelligence that might one day automatically generate scripts.
They argue the strike will be far more expensive for the studios versus coming to what they say is a fair deal. For example, writers say that a settlement would cost Netflix $68 million a year, or 0.214% of their annual revenue.
“You begin to wonder, how is this really a money issue?” Haywood said. “If they’re paying one of their CEOs the equivalent of half of what we’re asking for, at a certain point it is hard to wrap your mind around the idea that writers are asking for more than their fair share.”
The studios have previously disputed WGA estimates, but all agree that the longer the strike lasts, the more it will impact writers, studios and viewers.
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