Should a threatened strike by the Writers' Guild of America take place, late-night TV will be the first hit, with writers walking off their jobs as of May 2.
“With the cable networks’ Upfronts underway and the broadcast networks’ Upfronts beginning in May, I am writing to inform you of a potential labor dispute that could have a significant impact on primetime programming for the 2017-2018 television season,” says a letter sent Tuesday to one media-buying firm by David J. Young, executive director of Writers' Guild of America West, according to Variety. “As a stakeholder that may be negatively affected by this dispute, this information may be relevant to your media buying plans.”
As a result, the letter goes on, ”late night shows including Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Daily Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Saturday Night Live, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and others will go off the air. Some scripted series scheduled to air in the summer of 2017 may be affected as writing and producing for the season is ongoing.”
During the last writers' strike in 2007-2008, the late-night shows — including NBC’s Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with Conan O’Brien, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman and Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report starring Stephen Colbert — returned to the air without writers after the strike had lasted for two months. In all, the writers' strike lasted 100 days.
The letter comes as the Writers' Guild prepares to conduct an authorization vote for a strike. The guild is in difficult negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers over compensation for writers. TV writers face a much different TV landscape than they did ten years go, with networks ordering many more limited and anthology series that require far less episodes.
April 19 is the start date for the strike authorization vote, and the guild’s current contract with the major studios expires May 1.
According to Variety, the letter is intended to pressure the AMPTP by going to the studios as they head into upfront season, which is the most intense selling time for broadcast and cable networks. In 2016, the top five English-language broadcasters together reaped as much as $9.25 billion in advertising revenue for primetime alone, estimates Variety. Billions more in advertising inventory is sold to other broadcast and cable networks, as well as digital outlets, across all dayparts.
“Our objective continues to be to reach an agreement with the WGA at the bargaining table,” The AMPTP said in a statement. “We hope the Guild will engage with us on the issues in that forum when negotiations resume on Monday.”
READ MORE: Variety