Jul 20, 2023 - Economy & Business

Hollywood strikes upend fall TV

Illustration of a toppled over vintage television with color bars falling out onto the floor

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As the writers and actors strikes continue, TV networks are cobbling together schedules for the fall season and putting their hopes on unscripted content.

Why it matters: Broadcast networks already desperate for viewers will face new challenges in trying to retain eyeballs as more people transition to streaming.

  • Networks are "hit the most" by the ongoing strikes, which will only increase cord-cutting, hurting traditional broadcast TV, Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter told Axios.
  • "It’s clear that advertisers are not enthusiastic about reruns. If there are no new TV shows, ad revenues should drop by a lot," he added.

Driving the news: NBC, CBS, Fox and The CW have all shaken up their fall lineups as Hollywood comes to a historic halt.

  • The new schedules are heavy on game shows, reality television, shows from streaming platforms and live sports.
  • All of NBC's popular crime drama shows from Dick Wolf, like “Chicago P.D.” and “Law & Order,” have been moved off of the network's fall schedule,
  • Fox's fall schedule will feature WWE wrestling on Friday nights. While CBS and ABC will both turn to shows popular on streaming and cable — Paramount Network's "Yellowstone" will broadcast on CBS, while ABC will air Disney+'s "Ms. Marvel."

Between the lines: While broadcast reality TV and game shows might be popular, eventually it "becomes more and more and more the same," Pachter said.

  • "It's a stopgap. No, it's not that effective," Pachter said of networks' strategies to circumvent the lack of new content.
  • The popularity of live sports will likely keep broadcast networks alive, but when it comes to reruns of old shows, networks simply can't compete with the extensive catalogs of streaming services, he said.
  • The result, he said, is consumers will eventually see more value for money in streaming services.

State of play: The first quarter of 2023 saw cord-cutting reach "new all-time worst levels" as households without linear TV subscriptions now outnumber those that do, media analysis firm MoffettNathanson said in a May report.

  • On the other hand, Deloitte’s annual Digital Media Trends survey, released in April, revealed that the average U.S. consumer pays $48 per month for subscription streaming services.
  • Pay-TV subscriptions now have a market penetration of just 58.5% of U.S. households, a level not seen since 1992, per the report.

Yes, but: Many streamers have been raising prices in recent years, sparking backlash from consumers.

While streamers are "the least impacted" by the strikes due to their large catalogs and international content, Pachter said, they're also not totally immune.

What to watch: How programming changes impact viewership at a time when TV networks are already struggling to retain eyeballs.

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