From November 2007 until February 2008, the Writers Guild of America went on strike, and as dozens of shows on broadcast and cable television went on hiatus, reality TV exploded. Just over fifteen years later, the WGA is on strike again, and we're already seeing its effects as the big networks look toward Fall. Disney's ABC network published a Fall lineup entirely free of new scripted shows.
ABC's Fall lineup features one new show, The Golden Bachelor, a variant of its popular Bachelor show focused on older participants. The rest of the lineup includes shows like Celebrity Jeopardy, Bachelor in Paradise, Judge Steve Harvey, the Shark Tank, and reruns of Abbott Elementary.
When writers went on strike in 2007, the WGA was concerned about general pay, but also details like DVD residuals and Guild involvement in the then-new world of streaming video content. Netflix as we know it now was barely six months old at that point and hadn't yet developed (and arguably lost) its reputation for killer streaming television. Previous contracts didn't account for newer forms of media, and the studios liked it that way--a whole new world of streaming without a pesky union to cut into their profits.
As GQ notes, previous writers' strikes have addressed emergening technology at the time, such as the then-new practice of showing movies on television in the 1960s and the advent of home video in the 1980s. Each time there's a new technology, writers have to fight for fair compensation. This time, AI-powered writing is in the mix, along with things like residual payments for streaming shows--which are paid out just once rather than repeatedly over the years like they are for syndicated programming on linear television. In general, though, the strike--which was authorized by 97.85% of the 9,200 voting WGA members (itself about 79% of eligible WGA members--is looking for a more livable cut of the profits of the shows they create the foundations for.
ABC's focus on reality and unscripted programming for Fall suggests that the network expects the strike to go on for some time. At least long enough to impact Fall programming in a significant way. While reality shows were around before 2007, that strike also resulted in a big bump for reality and unscripted programming, which was not dependent on Guild-associated writers for creation.
Here's ABC's Fall lineup:
8:00 p.m. “Dancing with the Stars” (two hours)
10:00 p.m. “The Golden Bachelor”
8:00 p.m. “Celebrity Jeopardy!”
9:00 p.m. “Bachelor in Paradise” (two hours)
8:00 p.m. “Judge Steve Harvey”
9:00 p.m. “Abbott Elementary” (Encore)
9:30 p.m. “Abbott Elementary” (Encore)
“What Would You Do?”
8:00 p.m. “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune”
9:00 p.m. “Press Your Luck”
10:00 p.m. “The $100,000 Pyramid”
8:00 p.m. “Shark Tank”
9:01 p.m. “20/20” (two hours)
7:30 p.m. College Football
7:00 p.m. “America’s Funniest Home Videos”
8:00 p.m. “The Wonderful World of Disney” (three hours)