On Tuesday, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike after failing to reach an agreement with major Hollywood studios over contracts involving writers’ compensation, especially in the wake of the substantial expansion of streaming services.
This marks the first major WGA strike since 2007, when the union fought for greater funding for writers’ rooms in comparison to increased profits enjoyed by larger studios and stipulations over DVD residuals. That strike lasted just over three months, with writers refusing to work from Nov. 5, 2007 to Feb. 12, 2008.
“Everything has changed in terms of making money in this town,” Jane Fonda told ET’s Matt Cohen. “It’s becoming very, very hard to really make a good living here partly because of streaming.”
While she admitted the whole thing is “complicated,” the 85-year-old star, who made her onscreen debut during the first WGA strike in 1960, said, “We can’t do anything without [the writers].”
Because most films have a lengthy production process, the strike will not immediately affect the release of completed movies slated for the upcoming year, whereas viewers will see various changes to their regular TV lineup starting as early as Tuesday evening, with late-night talk shows going dark.
That said, here’s an overview of how the WGA strike will affect TV, from late-night to upcoming scripted series on linear networks and streaming services moving forward.
Late-Night Talk Shows
Almost all late-night talk shows, from The Late Show With Stephen Colbert to The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, will cease production for likely the whole duration of the strike. During Monday’s show, Colbert ran through a number of “news stories” from the future after explaining that the writers are “so important to our show… and this nation owes so much to unions.”
As for Saturday Night Live, the NBC sketch comedy series will air reruns instead of producing new episodes, meaning that Pete Davidson’s upcoming debut as host “canceled due to the writers’ strike.”
One show that will air as usual is Greg Gutfeld’s Fox News program, Gutfeld!, which ET has learned “is not impacted by the strike.”
Scripted Shows on Networks and Streamers
With the 2023 TV premiere schedule already mapped out until the end of August, there will not likely be an immediate impact on any current programming rolling out over the next few months — especially most series that have already completed writing scripts on upcoming episodes.
For example, “a source close to production [on House of the Dragon] tells Variety that scripts on the hit show have been done for some time, and that filming on the second season won’t be affected.”
When it comes to Netflix, CEO Ted Sarandos has said, “We have a large base of upcoming shows and films from around the world. We can probably serve our members better than most.”
And as for the launch of the new streaming service, Max, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav isn’t worried. “We have a lot of content that’s been produced. We are launching a product on May 23, so we are ready to go guns blazing in terms of our product and our platforms around the world,” he said during a press conference.
However, just because a series is premiering in the summer doesn’t mean that particular season has completed production, meaning several shows could see their episode count reduced or ending earlier than expected. In 2007, several major shows, from 30 Rock to Gossip Girl, saw their seasons cut short after being unable to complete their original episode order.
According to the New York Times, soap operas will be the first scripted genre hit, and will likely “run out of new episodes after a month.”
Depending on how long the strike lasts, TV’s annual fall slate of premieres will most likely be affected since no new shows or episodes will have been written or produced in time.
According to Variety, the upcoming season of Abbott Elementarycould take a hit. Writer Brittani Nichols revealed “that this strike could ultimately impact the number of episodes they can pen for the upcoming season.” And as for the new season of Cobra Kai? “The writers room is closed and no writers are currently on set for season 6 production.”
Influx in Reality TV and Game Shows
As the networks and streamers run out of scripted programs, those empty slots will be filled by games shows and reality TV series, which are not part of the WGA. Additionally, programmers can also pull from a selection of international shows that don’t abide by the same union rules.
In 2007, TV saw the rise of even more reality shows, with The Amazing Race, Big Brother and The Price Is Right all being expanded with new episodes.
And if the fall season is delayed, that means more room for football. According to Variety, sports programming and “other non-scripted entertainment are not subject to the WGA agreement and will continue.”
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