Writers' strike sends TV pilots into tailspin

Thu Dec 20, 2007 2:57pm EST
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By Sue Zeidler

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood's television pilot season, when networks develop and test most new programs, is in a tailspin with writers on strike putting billions of advertising dollars at risk.

The disruption of the pilot season, which runs from January through April, would shake up the $9 billion "upfront" market that begins in May when advertisers pay to book commercial time long in advance of a broadcast.

Some experts believe the very time frame of the broadcast season as a whole, which has traditionally run from September to May, may now be relegated to entertainment history.

"This strike is certainly going to cause a shift. If it isn't resolved by February 1, it will rule out many pilots," said Jeff Hermanson, assistant executive director of the Writers Guild of America (WGA).

The seven-week-old strike by some 10,500 WGA members against Hollywood studios has brought production to a halt on most all network prime-time comedies and dramas.

With the supply of fresh episodes about to run out, broadcasters plan to load up their programming schedules with a wave of strike-proof reality shows, game shows and reruns of popular series starting in January.

About 300 TV writers are planning to sign a letter urging studios to quickly return to negotiations or reach interim agreements to save 2008's pilot season, Hermanson said.

ABC, owned by Walt Disney Co, CBS Corp, News Corp's Fox and NBC, operated by General Electric, all declined comment.   Continued...

<p>Striking writers carrying signs covered with plastic bags gather in the rain at a Writers Guild of America rally at FreeemantleMedia's North America headquarters in Burbank, California December 7, 2007. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>