The strike called by the Writers Guild of America has ended. While waiting for the members of the writers' union to vote on the agreement reached with the AMTMP, the studios' employers' association, the writers can return to their respective positions to work normally, develop series or negotiate new projects. But, taking into account that at this time the new seasons of the series on free-to-air channels in the United States such as Grey's Anatomy, Abbott School or NCIS should be premiering, the question is the following: when can the general series return if can they come back?
With the writers' strike that began on May 2, the fiction writers' rooms could not be formed in May or June to structure the plots of the new seasons; It was not possible to start filming episodes in August to have a cushion for the season (assuming that sitcom episodes need between 5 or 6 days of filming and one-hour dramas usually require 10); and, consequently, in September and October there is hardly any original fiction content to broadcast. Only Magnum or Quantum leap, which had episodes in the pipeline, and the animated series, which work with other production times, are saved.
In the industry, the fear was enormous: if the strike arrived at the end of October, there was the possibility that the productions would not broadcast new seasons. But, with this in extremis agreement pending approval, the season could have been saved: there is time to prepare scripts, shoot them and post-production of the episodes. Of course, this depends on the actors, on strike since July through the Screen Actors Guild, in the coming weeks of script creation reaching the same point: an advantageous agreement in a Hollywood industry that has become precarious for its professionals.
From media such as Deadline, it is reported that the aforementioned series could return around March. This implies the pre-production of the episodes starting this October, which is possible while waiting for the agreement to be voted on, to begin filming at the end of November or beginning of December; and assuming that teams will not take the same number of weeks off for Christmas as usual. Another option would be to start filming directly in January 2024 depending on the availability of professionals between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
While waiting for indicative dates to be confirmed on when free-to-air television series in the United States could return, one circumstance seems inevitable: the series will have fewer episodes than usual. Thus, if it was normal for Grey's Anatomy, NCIS or Chicago Fire to have around 20 episodes, most productions will have to settle for orders of 10 or 13 episodes, seasons designed to air in the spring.
And what have the networks done this fall while they are without original series? They have based their strategy on low-cost and the broadcast of contests and reality shows. While Big Brother, The Masked Singer, Survivor or Dancing with the Stars remain on the grid, reruns have become necessary assets, there will be more international acquisitions than usual (such as the British version of Ghosts, the Australian version of NCIS or the German science fiction series The swarm) and studios even broadcast fiction that had never been intended for free-to-air television.
In fact, one of the news of this start of the season is the great audience data for Yellowstone with Kevin Costner in the open. The neo-western had been on the Paramount cable channel and streaming platforms, but ViacomCBS has tried its luck by broadcasting its first season, making it known to new audiences and winning over longtime fans. The result? The episodes gather between 5 and 7 million viewers in their live broadcast.