January 20, 2019

Writers’ Strike: Are US TV shows about to fall off air?

v53In a letter to media buyers, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has threatened to strike from 2 May.
It’s to do with a row over pay – writers say they have been losing revenue in recent years, 23% in the last two years alone.
Also, because so many series are getting shorter but writers contracts remain the same length, many of them find themselves locked into a contract without other work.
“Should this [strike] occur, writing for television, feature films and digital series will cease,” the letter says.This would be catastrophic for the major networks, which were hugely affected when the WGA went on strike for 100 days in 2007.
Many TV networks struggled to fill their schedules, which led to an increase in repeats and reality TV shows.
In light of the letter, five days of negotiations are due to begin on Monday. If they don’t go well – loads of your favourite shows could become victims of the strike.
Unlike the last time, many viewers will now be able to turn to streaming services to plug the gap in new content. However for traditional TV networks and film studios, a new strike would cause chaos.
Shows which are unscripted, don’t use union writers or have already wrapped filming, wouldn’t generally suffer. But here are some examples of shows which would.The genre that would be impacted most immediately would be the live entertainment and late night chat shows.
Unlike UK talk shows fronted by the likes of Graham Norton and Jonathan Ross air weekly, most US chat shows – which are also broadcast in the UK – air every night.
As you can imagine, that requires a heck of a lot of material, and therefore a heck of a lot of writers.
The likes of Jimmy Kimmel Live, Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon would struggle to stay on air.
During the last strike, talk shows hosted by David Letterman, Jon Stewart and Conan O’Brien all ran repeats instead of airing new programmes.
Many stayed off air until the strike was over, while some returned and filled air time by ad-libbing or airing previously-recorded segments.
O’Brien, Letterman and Jay Leno even started to pay some of their regular writers out of their own pockets to provide new material during the strike.In 2007, some networks stockpiled episodes to try and minimise the impact of the writers’ strike.
A few soap operas like Days of Our Lives and All My Children had their scripts completed to last them through to January, when the strike was due to end.
Dramas such as The Wire and The Shield also completed filming their current seasons and so were unaffected.
But others floundered.
Some shows were cancelled altogether, despite having ended on a cliff hanger (you can imagine how viewers reacted to that).
Others had their seasons cut short (Pushing Daisies), had new episodes delayed (24, Entourage) or their season length shortened (30 Rock, Breaking Bad, The Big Bang Theory).

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