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Screenwriters' strike commences new television season

ABC, CBS, The CW, NBC and Fox presented their new content to advertisers at an event underscored by the screenwriters' strike.

Un hombre en su casa viendo la televisión. La huelga de guionistas podría complicar a la industria audiovisual realizar nuevas series, programas y hasta películas.

(Public Domain Pictures)

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This week, television networks presented their new content in the midst of a screenwriters' strike. The U.S. networks held their “upfronts,” one of the industry's most important events in which television networks present their lineup for the coming season to advertisers. However, this year's event was overshadowed by the Western Screenwriters Guild of America (WGA) strike that began more than two weeks ago. There was an abundance of writers in front of the networks' offices, picket signs in hand.

ABC showed the most serious signs of this stoppage. During its gala, the network unveiled next year's schedule. The surprise was that there are no series scheduled for fall, neither a new season of an existing show nor the premiere of new one; nothing. There are also no late-night shows, which were the first to be affected by the strike. The grid is reduced to reruns of previously aired series, such as “Abbott Elementary,” one of the first to stop production, and programs that have virtually no scripts.

Fox has no fall schedule and no replacement for Carlson

It doesn't get any better for Fox. The Rupert Murdoch-owned network announced that, for the second year in a row, it would not present its fall schedule. This time, Fox Entertainment CEO Rob Wade said, it was due to the strike:

Obviously nobody wants this strike and our thoughts go out to the writers at the moment. But we feel very confident in our schedule and our ability to pivot when necessary. Currently, there are no changes to the schedule, but as the summer continues, we’ll look at that carefully and make the right decisions going forward.

Not only did the network not unveil its schedule for next October, but it also faced the tough question of who will replace Tucker Carlson. It seems that even that decision has not been made, as there is no official announcement from the network. There are many rumors that place Sean Hannity as a replacement for Carlson, with Jesse Watters and Greg Gutfeld also occupying the network's prime time slot.

CBS cancels its 'upfronts' and The CW overhauls

CBS went mostly unnoticed, perhaps because the network canceled its upfronts altogether. The TV world was competing against Netflix during its event for advertisers, and the industry’s situation is not ideal for hosting the event. Therefore, they unveiled their new schedule a week ago, eliminating any possibility of holding the event:

CBS' spinoff network, The CW, did hold an event. It took place Thursday and appears to signify a complete overhaul of the network. Since last year, its future has been uncertain.

Practically its entire line-up has changed, and the future of series such as “Superman & Lois” and “Gotham Knights” remains to be seen. Both are successful series on the network, but it is not known if they fit into The CW’s new plan. As stated by Entertainment President Brad Schwartz, the network "embarks on the first step to become bigger and broader":

This fall, The CW embarks on the first step to become bigger and broader by offering our viewers a wide variety of programming from premium adult dramas to bold comedies and binge-worthy unscripted franchise. The new CW is now a broadcast network built for a broadcast audience.

Linda Yaccarino, the big star of the NBC upfronts

The leading lady at the NBC upfronts was Linda Yaccarino. Elon Musk announced that the former NBC Universal chief had signed on with Twitter to become the platform’s new CEO days before the network's advertiser event, which she organized.

Although she worked on preparation for the event, Yaccarino ultimately did not attend, although colleagues of hers, such as Streaming President Mark Lazarus, took the opportunity to thank the executive for all the work she had done for more than a decade:

So what was more surprising today, being welcomed by a foul mouthed teddy bear? Or seeing me up here on stage? In all seriousness, Linda and I have worked together for many, many years here at NBC and in our time in sales at Turner, and for her many contributions and for building an excellent team here, we want to thank her and wish her well.

The screenwriters' strike could not be ignored. Several writers stood up at the American television headquarters and began to protest, as they made known on social media:

The writers' strike was also discussed at the event. Mark Lazarus said he understood the need for the writers to strike and that they hoped to reach an agreement soon:

We also want to acknowledge the writers strike. We are grateful for the contribution writers make to our company, and respect their right to demonstrate. It may take some time, but I know we will eventually get through this and the result will be a stronger foundation on which we can all move forward together.

It wasn't all bad news. The company's streaming platform, Peacock, announced that it had signed a profitable deal with the NFL to exclusively broadcast one of its playoff games. This is good news in the midst of all the landscape facing North American broadcasters during the upcoming season.

Actors also on strike?

The networks are not only facing a difficult season. The screenwriters' strike could also include a new group: actors. It is no secret that several performers have come forward to support their fellow professionals, and now actors themselves are considering a strike.

The 160,000 unionized actors have until June 5 to decide whether or not to strike. Everything seems to point to the conclusion that they will join the screenwriters, since there have been many complaints about the same problems as their colleagues: the use of artificial intelligence and salaries. This was stated by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) in a statement on its website:

There has been a sea change in the entertainment industry, from the proliferation of streaming platforms to the recent explosion of generative AI, and at stake is the ability of our members to make a living. We must ensure that new developments in the entertainment industry are not used to devalue or disrespect the performers who bring productions to life.

If approved, actors would begin the strike on July 1, three months after the screenwriters went on strike. Thus, the audiovisual industry would remain in an even more uncertain future than the one that was envisioned at the beginning of May.