Hollywood strikes mean a steady diet of reruns, game shows and… – The New York Times

TV viewers in the US will see fewer new scripted shows, a trend that could continue well into next year if the strikes continue.

Scripted television series that premiere at a slower pace. The “New Releases” and “Just Added” banners on streaming services are piling up with reality shows, documentaries, and international cuisine. Ninety minute episodes of ‘Survivor’ and ’60 Minutes’. A steady diet of Pat Sajak, Steve Harvey and David Spade who host prime time game shows.

The effects of strikes that see tens of thousands of actors and writers walking on picket lines, along with industry-wide cost-cutting, will soon be felt by Americans watching television — and it will be a shift that could last well into next year.

For the better part of a decade, viewers have been inundated with dozens of new scripted shows every month, an overwhelming era in entertainment known as Peak TV.

The days of 600 new scripted shows a year are officially over and probably won’t return. About a year ago, nearly every major Hollywood studio began slamming new series orders for fear of falling stock prices, a downturn in the advertising market, and a new need to make streaming services profitable.

Then the strikes started. The writers have been on strike since May 2, leading some estimates to the halt of about 80 percent of scripted TV productions. When the actors went on strike on July 14, they essentially brought the entire US scripted production line to a halt.

Depending on the length of the labor disputes — many Hollywood studios are preparing for the contingency of at least one of the strikes lasting through the end of the year — the one-two punch of reduced series orders and the strikes will accelerate the cadence of new television series well into 2024, researchers and executives said.

“The consequence for the wider TV industry will be a very long-lasting drop in production,” said Richard Broughton, the executive director of Ampere Analysis, a research firm.

ABC’s prime-time lineup for September includes “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune,” hosted by Pat Sajak.Eric McCandless/ABC

The broadcasting networks will be the first to feel the effects. For ABC, there will be zero new episodes of popular series such as ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘Abbott Elementary’ from September. The lineup will instead be populated by reruns, old movies, and reality and game shows, including “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune,” “Judge Steve Harvey,” and two spin-offs of “The Bachelor.” Likewise, Fox will be turning to a range of animated, reality, and unscripted shows, including a new game show, “Snake Oil,” hosted by Mr. Spade.

CBS will feature numerous reality series and bring old cable episodes and streaming hit “Yellowstone” to prime time on the network. It will also import the UK version of the sitcom “Ghosts”, which it adapted into a hit that the strikes have now stopped. NBC will show a series from Canada called “Transport”, unscripted shows, reruns and new episodes of the “Magnum PI” reboot that have already been filmed.

If the labor disputes drag on into October, a majority of U.S. television premieres expected to air in January will experience some sort of delay, a trend Ampere said would continue for much of the rest of the year. If the strike lasts until the end of 2023, the effects will be even greater.

With the “Ghosts” above out of action, CBS will televise the earlier UK version of the sitcom.Bertrand Calmeau/CBS

There was already a delay going on. In the first half of this year, orders for new series from Warner Bros. Discovery, Netflix, Paramount and Disney are down between 20 and 56 percent from a year earlier, according to Ampere. Executives attributed that to both a continuation of last year’s warning and concerns about a likely writers’ strike. (The actors’ strike surprised many more executives.)

Matt Roush, a senior critic at TV Guide magazine, said he had noticed in recent months that new seasons of scripted series were slowing down. “It doesn’t feel like a fire hose anymore,” he said. “It feels like a steady drizzle.”

For streaming services, some productions can take more than a year to complete, so new shows are still snaking through the pipeline.

Netflix said last week that the final season of “The Crown” and new seasons of other hit series like “Virgin River” and “Heartstopper” would premiere this year. HBO still has “True Detective” set to premiere this year, as well as “The Regime,” a limited series starring Kate Winslet set to premiere in 2024. The final season of the “Game of Thrones” spin-off “House of the Dragon” – which is unaffected by the actors’ strike and has continued to film abroad – also remains scheduled for next year.

The final season of HBO’s “House of the Dragon,” which will be filmed overseas, is scheduled for next year. Ollie Upton/HBO

Still, networks like HBO, as well as the Max streaming service, will feel the effects of a prolonged strike. The writers’ strike forced production on Max’s new “Batman” spin-off, “The Penguin”, to halt midway through shooting. New seasons of hits like “The White Lotus” and “Euphoria” are likely to be pushed through to 2025.

New seasons of other popular series, including ‘Stranger Things’, ‘Yellowstone’ and ‘Severance’, were all suspended after the start of the writers’ strike and will also be postponed.

Netflix said it would have $1.5 billion in additional cash flow this year from the strikes – money that would otherwise have been spent on new series orders and productions for US TV series.

There are questions about whether viewers will get trigger-happy around the “cancel your subscription” buttons once the pace of new, splashy scripted titles starts sputtering in their streaming queue.

“People start to notice when there’s nothing new, or when you stop opening the app,” said Julia Alexander, director of strategy at Parrot Analytics, a research firm.

Still, she said, many studios, especially Netflix, will be more isolated than they were during the 100-day writers’ strike in 2007, when broadcast networks still ruled. For example, Netflix can now count on a constant supply of unscripted and international programs, and an extensive library of content.

The longer the strike lasts, the greater the risk for everyone.

“All platforms will begin to notice the long-term effects as the strike continues,” Ms. Alexander said. “This will only really come to light in the spring of 2024 and beyond, depending on the length of the strike.”

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