As Hollywood’s historic double strike rages on, major TV broadcasters are entering the fall with adjusted schedules, leaning on everything from international acquisitions to unscripted and sports as the labor dispute takes traditional scripted programming off the table.
When the onset of the writers’ strike in May coincided with the 2023-2024 upfronts season, networks cautiously began unveiling their fall slates, with the exception of Fox’s delayed schedule. Many changes followed over the summer months as the dispute continued and SAG-AFTRA joined the WGA on the picket lines in July.
Given that reality TV was the saving grace of the 2007-2008 WGA strike, many broadcasters previewed unscripted and sports galore for their next season’s lineup. ABC announced franchise spin-off “The Golden Bachelor,” CBS expanded “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race” to 90-minute-episode seasons. Meanwhile, NBC showed off new scripted shows stockpiled before the strike. Since then, the networks have pulled out new strategies to optimize their fall schedules, including swapping franchise-stacked days and leveraging their parent company’s streaming content.
Brian Frons, a former daytime programmer at ABC, told TheWrap that CBS could be forging a new model for broadcast programming, with its fall schedule featuring the original U.K. version of their hit sitcom “Ghosts,” as well as airing the Paramount Network series “Yellowstone” and “NCIS: Sydney” from Paramount+.
“We’ve had such a premium over the years with originals on broadcast,” said Frons, citing the fact that USA series “Suits” has become a monster streaming hit on Netflix. “Suits” also streams on Peacock, where its resurgent popularity prompted NBCU to add its one-season spinoff “Pearson.”
“I think that this sort of non-exclusivity trend that we’re starting to see, like “Avatar: The Way of Water” being on both Disney+ and Max, maybe that’s a sign of possibility and hope for linear TV,” said Frons.
“Maybe broadcast is going to be less about bespoke original programming, but a mix as it is in Europe, with original series from other countries, rerun library movies and rerun series,” Frons added. He called bringing existing content to broadcast viewers “an astounding opportunity.”
Here, TheWrap breaks down how the fall schedules for CBS, NBC, Fox, ABC and The CW are weathering the strike.
One of ABC’s crowning jewels this fall is the long-awaited spin-off “The Golden Bachelor,” which will be led by “The Bachelor” franchise’s first senior leading man, Gerry Turner. The new series, which will only be one hour, will pair with a new season of “Bachelor in Paradise” as the franchise shifts from the traditional “Bachelor” Mondays to Thursdays, taking the timeslot typically reserved for buzzy scripted shows like Shondaland’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Station 19.”
“We’re positioning ‘The Golden Bachelor’ in a prime 8 p.m. time slot ahead of ‘Bachelor in Paradise’ to optimize the shows’ compatibility and reach the broadest possible audience,” ABC Entertainment content strategy and scheduling SVP Ari Goldman said in a statement to TheWrap. “With the response we’ve seen for ‘The Golden Bachelor,’ we see this as an opportunity to gain new and returning viewers of the franchise. Furthermore, the Thursday pairing leans into the strength of the ‘Bachelor’ franchise’s performance across Hulu and on-demand platforms heading into the weekend when streaming usage is elevated.”
Besides “Golden Bachelor,” the network’s fall schedule will rely on new seasons of unscripted shows, including “Dancing With the Stars,” “Judge Steve Harvey” and “Shark Tank,” without any new or returning scripted shows.
Additionally, the network will leverage the broadcast return of “Dancing With the Stars” after the competition series aired Season 31 exclusively on Disney+. The show will move to Tuesdays instead of its typical Monday spot as it competes with highly viewed reality shows like NBC’s “The Voice,” CBS’ “Big Brother” and Fox’s “Kitchen Nightmares.” In addition to airing on ABC, Season 32 will be simulcast on Disney+ and available next-day on Hulu.
ABC had already filmed the second installment of “Celebrity Jeopardy!” prior to the WGA strike, so the competition series will debut the new season with original material. “Jeopardy!” staple Ken Jennings will step in to host the show as Mayim Bialik backed away from hosting during the strikes.
New series: “The Golden Bachelor” (unscripted)
Returning unscripted: “Dancing With the Stars,” “Celebrity Jeopardy!” “Bachelor in Paradise,” “Judge Steve Harvey,” “What Would You Do?” “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune,” “Press Your Luck,” “The $100,000 Pyramid,” “Shark Tank,” “20/20”
Returning scripted: None
Reruns: “Abbott Elementary”
CBS has it share of unscripted series, including reality competitions “Big Brother,” “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race” to fill its schedule, but it’s also importing existing scripted shows that are new to broadcast in the U.S.
Paramount Network juggernaut “Yellowstone” will make its broadcast debut this fall, and “NCIS: Sydney,” which was originally set to run exclusively on Paramount+, has also been tapped for the CBS schedule. The network is also importing the British version of “Ghosts” to fill the scripted void.
“From ‘Yellowstone’ to ‘NCIS: Sydney’… from ‘Survivor’ to ’60 Minutes’… from ‘FBI True’ to more versions of ‘Ghosts’ and brand-new reality series, we have a lineup with more than 220 hours of original programming that speaks directly to our CBS audience,” CBS Entertainment EVP of programming strategy Noriko Kelley said in a statement to TheWrap.
New series: “NCIS: Sydney” (scripted), “Buddy Games” (unscripted), “Raid the Cage” (unscripted), “Lotería Loca” (unscripted), “Yellowstone” (scripted; new to broadcast), U.K. version of “Ghosts” (scripted; new to U.S. audiences)
Returning unscripted: “Big Brother,” “FBI True,” “Survivor,” “The Amazing Race,” “The Challenge: USA,” “The Price Is Right at Night,” “Let’s Make a Deal”
Returning scripted: “SEAL Team”
Reruns: “NCIS,” “FBI,” “Young Sheldon,” “Ghosts,” “Blue Bloods”
The Peacock network is “well situated,” with more scripted content than its counterparts, the network’s scheduling SVP Steve Kern told TheWrap.
Ten episodes of “Magnum P.I.” were already in the bag — the final season was split into two 10-episode installments — and strike-conscious execs decided to start production early on the second season of “Quantum Leap” and new series “The Irrational” and “Found.”
“We’ve had contingency plans we’ve been working on for a while,” Kern said. “Right now, we don’t need to use any of our streaming services or cable shows to schedule.”
Another ace up NBC’s sleeve is Sunday Night Football, which accounts for four hours of weekly programming. Meanwhile, NBC News has agreed to produce an additional third hour weekly of “Dateline.”
Should the strike drag on, NBC also has currently unscheduled series like the Jon Cryer comedy “Extended Family” ready to go.
“This is not the first time we’ve been through a strike,” said Kern, who also referenced coping with the pandemic production shutdown. “So we’re very calm and measured about what we’re doing and how we do it.”
New series: “The Irrational” (scripted), “Found” (scripted)
Returning unscripted: “The Voice,” “Dateline NBC”
Returning scripted: “Magnum, P.I.” final season, “Quantum Leap,” “Transplant”
Reruns: Dick Wolf’s “Chicago” dramas and “Law & Order” dramas
“We’re leaning into our strengths.”
That’s how Dan Harrison, EVP of program planning and content strategy for Fox Entertainment, summed up the network when asked how Fox approached this strike-filled fall. Specifically, it’s a strategy that means prioritizing cooking, animation and reality shows such as “The Masked Singer,” which will return for its 10th season in the coming weeks.
“If you look at our schedule, we’ve historically been predominantly reality on Wednesday and Thursday, of course animation on Sunday and historically scripted on Monday and Tuesday,” Harrison told TheWrap. “So where we are focusing is on figuring out how to program shows on Monday and Tuesday.”
Fox’s Monday will include new episodes from “Kitchen Nightmares,” which will return to the network for the first time in roughly nine years. Mondays will also see Season 2 of the reality show “Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test.” That will be followed on Tuesdays by reruns of “9-1-1: Lone Star” and Season 4 of “Name That Tune.” “I Can See Your Voice” will then debut midseason for its third season. Ramsay’s “Hell’s Kitchen” is also set to return this fall, meaning there will be new episodes from shows from the celebrity chef on the schedule.
As for animation, one of the two new series the network is set to debut this fall is Dan Harmon’s “Krapopolis” (The other is the game show “Snake Oil”). All programs in Fox’s animation domination block — which include “The Simpsons,” “Bob’s Burgers” and “Family Guy” — will air new episodes this fall. Due to the long production lead time required for animation, these series have yet to be impacted by the strike.
Harrison emphasized that capitalizing on NFL and MLB World Series games has always been a priority for the network, and it’s a strategy Fox plans to keep utilizing. In fact, Harmon’s “Krapopolis” will premiere right after a NFL doubleheader on Sept. 24.
Though consumers are sure to miss new episodes of fan favorites like “Accused,” the network’s previous focus on reality and animation makes the changes to Fox’s schedule likely less jarring than other broadcast networks.
New series: “Krapopolis” (scripted), “Snake Oil” (unscripted)
Returning unscripted: “The Masked Singer,” “Kitchen Nightmares” (returning after nine years), “Celebrity Name That Tune,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Lego Masters,” “Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test,” WWE Friday Night Smackdown, “I Can See Your Voice” (debuting midseason)
Returning scripted: “The Simpsons,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “Family Guy”
Reruns: “9-1-1: Lone Star”
The CW is in a completely different position than its competitors this season. Following the network’s acquisition by Nexstar last October, the network largely overhauled its programming to be less niche while still catering to its fans.
“When we took over, I was more concerned with ‘What will our full schedule look like? And how do we pull something together really quickly and do so efficiently?’” CW president of entertainment Brad Schwartz told TheWrap. “The happy accident was we’re extraordinarily protected from the strike.”
The CW’s upcoming slate is currently filled with international partnerships with commissioning studios like “Sullivan’s Crossing” and “The Spencer Sisters,” reality shows like “FBoy Island” and live sports. That international focus carries some major benefits for the network. None of these international productions fall under SAG-AFTRA or WGA rules. Rather, they’re covered under their respective territories’ unions, either in Canada or in the UK.
In fact, the only CW show to get a SAG-AFTRA interim agreement was “The Chosen,” which was the first series to get an exemption during the strike. The currently airing series has already wrapped production.
“We’re going to have more scripted content on The CW in [the fourth quarter] than any other network,” Schwartz said.
The network’s massive ramp up in sports will also make an impact this fall. After making a splash in the live sports space with LIV Golf, the network will have the broadcast rights to 50 ACC games across football and basketball starting Saturday. The network also struck a deal with the NASCAR Xfinity Series for 2025, which will include 33 race weekends.
“We’re going from zero hours of sports six months ago to over 300 hours of live sports this year,” Schwartz said. “And I don’t think we’re done.”
As for what’s ahead, the network currently has five strike-impacted scripted shows: “All American,” “Walker,” “All American: Homecoming,” “Superman and Lois” and the upcoming ” The Librarians: The Next Chapter.” Of those series, the four returning dramas weren’t expected to return until midseason.
“As soon as the strike is over — and it will end — we can get into production on those four shows and hopefully they will all arrive at some point in 2024,” Schwartz said.
New series: “The Swarm” (scripted), “Sullivan’s Crossing” (scripted), “The Spencer Sisters” (scripted), “Children Ruin Everything” (scripted), ” “Everyone Else Burns” (scripted)
Returning unscripted: “Inside the NFL” (new to The CW), “FBoy Island” (new to The CW), “Penn and Teller: Fool Us,” “Masters of Illusion,” “World’s Funniest Animals,” “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”
Returning scripted: None
For all of TheWrap’s strike coverage, click here.