Data: Which TV and Streaming Companies Are Most Vulnerable in a Writers Strike?

The writers strike of 2023 is on. Now that the die has been cast, there’s one question on everyone’s lips: Who can ride out the storm?

VIP+ has conducted an analysis of the leading U.S. TV and streaming entertainment companies to assess how reliant they are on scripted content, which is most vulnerable to being disrupted by a strike. We examined the volume of scripted comedy and drama the companies program versus more secure unscripted genres, including documentaries, true crime, reality, pop culture and lifestyle.

More from Variety

Should a strike go as long as it did in 2007-08 (100 days), there are some factors to note. The first is that due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down productions, entertainment companies have recent experience in having to cobble together schedules on the fly. Unlike 2020, though, they now have a willingness to license their content after a certain point in time, aiding TV schedulers.

Still, that wouldn’t help streaming services in their search for originals. If the streamers have been smart, with the foresight of Nostradamus, they’ve already commissioned a host of unscripted shows or overseas productions to fill the void in the event of a writers strike. If they instead opted to gamble, uh-oh.

Note the analysis below is based on primetime scripted and unscripted TV content (as in, doesn’t include the impact on networks airing daytime soaps, late-night shows or original movies) and excludes kids content.

Strike Impact: Low

A&E is almost entirely focused on unscripted and will pretty much skirt any impact from a WGA writers walkout.

Strike Impact: Medium
This company has a greater balance shift toward scripted than unscripted, but given that many Prime Video subscribers have access via the greater Amazon Prime service, subscription churn should be mitigated. The MGM+ cable network averaged a scripted show every 2 months in 2022, so will not be too impacted if a couple of months pass without an original.

Strike Impact: Medium

The only reason AMC’s impact is not anticipated as high is its networks program originals just one night a week.

Strike Impact: High

Streamer Apple TV+ relies heavily on scripted content and thus will be smacked hard by a strike.

Strike Impact: High

The majority of Disney’s holdings will be affected by a strike, although it is not hard to foresee an immediate future where ABC, Freeform and FX license from corporate siblings Disney+ and Hulu to fill the schedule gap. The one shining light is the National Geographic channels acquired from Fox, which rely totally on unscripted and will not be influenced by a strike.

Strike Impact: High

The network already has more unscripted content than scripted (a wise move) but it will still feel the immediate swipe of a strike. Long term, a writers walkout is likely to encourage Fox execs to invest even less in scripted content.

Strike Impact: Medium

The only reason Lionsgate is not a high-risk company is it can also dwell on a film library and the fact that its 10 scripted originals in 2022 are amortized over 12 months (less than one per month).

Strike Impact: Medium

While NBC may feel the effect of a strike, it can license content from corporate sibling Peacock to fill the gaps. Peacock itself will be impacted, but the lack of a breakout streaming hit protects it somewhat as originals are not a strong subscription driver. For cable, NBCU has transitioned mainly to unscripted so any impact should be minimal.

Strike Impact: Medium

It is important to note that Netflix’s totals include content produced globally. That gives it an advantage versus others in that it already has processes in place to create content and as such is better positioned to ride out a storm.

Strike Impact: High

CBS would be hit by a production shutdown, although the company can look to Showtime and Paramount+ for high-end content to show. Those services will be lacking new content to license and will feel a strike.

Strike Impact: Low-Medium

WBD is perfectly placed to ride out a content shutdown. Scripted output from cable networks accounts for just 7% of total content (and half of that is from HBO), and the company is the largest publisher of unscripted content in the U.S.

VIP+ Webinar & Special Report: Dissecting WGA-AMPTP Issues

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.