A scripted television series is broadcast at a slow pace. Reality shows, documentaries, and international shows pile up in the “new” and “just added” banners on streaming services. His 90-minute episodes of “Survivor” and “60 Minutes.” The steady diet of primetime game show hosts Pat Sajak, Steve Harvey and David Spade.
The aftermath of the strike, which saw tens of thousands of actors and screenwriters walk the picket line, and the cost cutting across the industry will soon be felt by Americans watching TV. And that change could last until next year.
For the better part of a decade, viewers were inundated with dozens of newly scripted shows each month, in an era of entertainment domination known as Peak TV.
The era of 600 new scripted shows a year is officially over and unlikely to return. About a year ago, nearly every major Hollywood studio began putting the brakes on ordering new series due to concerns about falling stock prices, a sluggish advertising market and the new imperative of monetizing streaming services.
Then the strike started. By some estimates, writers have been on strike since May 2, effectively canceling about 80% of scripted TV shows. When the actors went on strike on July 14, they effectively brought down the entire American scripted production assembly line.
Although many Hollywood studios are bracing for the contingency that at least one strike will last until the end of the year, depending on the duration of the labor unrest, researchers and executives said the decline in series orders and the one-two punch of the strike will significantly alter the pace of new TV series production through 2024.
“The impact on the TV industry as a whole will be a very long recession in production,” said Richard Broughton, executive director of research firm Ampere Analysis.
Broadcast networks are the first to be affected. For ABC, September will see zero new episodes of popular series like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Abbott Elementary.” Instead, its lineup includes reruns, old movies, reality shows and game shows. This includes his two spin-off works, ‘Celebrity Wheel of Fortune’, ‘Judge Steve Harvey’ and ‘The Bachelor’. Likewise, Fox will be eyeing a series of animated, reality and unscripted shows, including a new game show “Snake Oil” hosted by Spade.
CBS will feature a number of reality series and will air old episodes of the cable and streaming hit “Yellowstone” during the network’s prime time. It will also import the British version of the sitcom Ghost, which became a hit after the strike was called off. NBC will air a Canadian series called “Transport,” an unscripted show, reruns of the previously filmed “Magnum PI” reboot, and new episodes.
Ampere says if the labor unrest drags on into October, most of the American TV shows scheduled to air by January will be delayed in some way, a trend that will continue for much of the rest of the year, Ampere said. If the strike continues until the end of 2023, the impact will be even greater.
It was already slowing down. In the first half of this year, new series orders from companies such as Warner Bros. Discovery, Netflix, Paramount and Disney fell 20% to 56% year over year, according to Ampere. Executives cited both continued vigilance from last year and concerns about a possible writers’ strike. (The actors’ strike caught even more executives off guard.)
Senior TV Guide critic Matt Rausch said in recent months he’s started noticing a slowdown in the pace of new seasons of scripted series. “I don’t feel like a fire hose anymore,” he says. “I feel like the drizzle is continuing.”
For streaming services, new shows still meander through the pipeline, as some productions can take a year or more to complete.
Netflix announced last week that the final season of “The Crown” and new seasons of other popular series such as “Virgin River” and “Heartstopper” will be released this year. HBO is still slated to air “True Detective” this year, and the limited series “The Regime,” starring Kate Winslet, is slated for 2024. The latest season of the Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon, which has been unaffected by the actors’ strike and continues filming overseas, is also due next year.
Still, networks like HBO and their max streaming service would be affected by a prolonged strike. Production on Max’s new Batman spin-off Penguin has been halted midway through production due to a writer’s strike. New seasons of hits like “White Lotus” and “Euphoria” are likely to be pushed back to 2025.
New seasons of other popular series, including Stranger Things, Yellowstone and Severance, are also expected to be postponed after production was halted after the writers’ strike began.
Netflix has already said it will have an additional $1.5 billion in cash flow this year thanks to the strike, money that would otherwise have been spent on new series orders and American TV series production.
With new flashy scripted titles pouring into streaming queues, it’s questionable whether viewers will be happy to hit the “cancel subscription” button.
“People start noticing that there’s something new or they haven’t opened the app,” said Julia Alexander, director of strategy at research firm Parrot Analytics.
Still, she said many studios, especially Netflix, would be even more isolated than they were during the 2007 100-day writers’ strike, when broadcast networks were still reigning. Netflix, for example, can now rely on a steady supply of unscripted and international shows and a rich library of content.
But the longer the strike lasts, the greater the risk for everyone.
“The longer the strike lasts, the longer every platform will start to notice the long-term effects,” Alexander said. “Depending on the length of the strike, it may not be until spring 2024 that this really becomes clear.”