May 19, 2023 - Economy & Business

Media projects squeezed further by writers strike

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Hollywood's writers strike cast a pall over this year's upfronts — the annual media pitch-fest to court advertisers — but it didn't stop the show.

Why it matters: Ad-supported networks and platforms have to work even harder to win marketing dollars amid intense competition, shrinking content budgets and now — production stoppages.

Catch up quick: More than 11,000 members of the Writers Guild of America went on strike earlier this month for the first time in 15 years after failing to finalize a new labor deal with major studios.

  • Hundreds of writers and their supporters picketed nearly every upfront, which just wrapped up this week in New York, including those for NBCUniversal, Fox and Disney.
  • Most major TV networks still staged highly produced presentations for their fall prime-time lineups, though without the typical star power. Actors steered clear in solidarity, while reality stars, athletes, musicians and journalists took the stage.

Zoom in: The first audience question to The CW executives was about the strike's impact on its plans, to which they expressed minimal concerns.

  • Conveniently, The CW's slate relies heavily on unscripted and international programming, though president Brad Schwartz acknowledged that one show, "All American," could be impacted by a prolonged strike.

Zoom out: "Stranger Things," "Cobra Kai," "Abbott Elementary" and late-night talk shows are among halted productions.

  • YouTube and TelevisaUnivision were both immune to the picketing, as the former relies on creator content and the latter produces outside the U.S.

What to watch: Because writers aren't allowed to talk about new ideas with one another or studios, new concept development is on hold too, CBS News notes.

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