Following the end of the WGA strike on September 27, broadcast networks quickly began preparing for production to resume in order to salvage seasons of at least thirteen episodes for their highly anticipated scripted shows. There were rumors that Wolf Entertainment’s police procedurals were trying to do more than 13, with a list of fifteen being circulating. Additionally, ABC and Warner Bros. TV were vying for Abbott Elementary, with ABC requesting 13 and the studio insisting on 17.
The goalpost began to move again as the weeks passed with SAG-AFTRA and the studios discussing but not coming to an agreement. This was similar to what happened in July, August, and September, when network programs would normally be in production but remained unfinished because of the double strike.
While nothing is certain, ten episodes have come to be seen as a benchmark for season length during the 2023–24 strike-affected season (or a “sweet spot,” as one agency described it). A shorter order is thought to be impractical due to the costs associated with starting and stopping production, which raises the cost of episodes when the entire cost is spread out over the course of the season.
According to rumors, Grey’s Anatomy on ABC is one of the top shows currently slated to create a 10-episode season. A 10-episode season of CBS’ CSI: Vegas is another show under consideration.
It’s presently projected that Wolf Entertainment dramas, which include the NBC Law & Order and One Chicago franchises and the CBS FBI trilogy, will produce thirteen episodes.
That 10–13 episode target range applies to the majority of other returning shows. According to rumors, a few well-known programs may receive early renewals for the upcoming season and film the two orders consecutively for midseason and autumn airings in 2024. Representatives from the studios and broadcast networks declined to comment.
Naturally, all of this is subject to change as long as SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP maintain their discussions. I’ve heard that because things have been changing so often, the finance departments of networks and studios have been recalculating expenses on a weekly, if not daily, basis based on updated production start dates and episode order forecasts.
The broadcast networks and the studios that supply them had initially bet on a smooth transition following the end of the writers’ strike on September 27. They believed that the SAG-AFTRA strike would end a month after the WGA work stoppage, allowing for the production of television shows as soon as there were enough written scripts to begin filming. I understand the window was around five weeks of a writers room, so if an actors agreement had been made, they could have begun filming the next week, especially for well-oiled machines like the Wolf series.
With Thanksgiving approaching, the hope is now for a SAG-AFTRA deal and a call to end the strike during ratification in the next week so that filming on the first shows can start at the end of November or the beginning of December. That has not happened, and a returning series does need 3-6 weeks for prep and pre-production. 13 episodes of existing programs could then be produced, and they would all fit into the broadcast season.
Some series could be able to generate ten episodes by the beginning of January, which would allow them to premiere before the season ends in May.
I have heard that in order to get the episodes into the can sooner, a condensed Christmas break and six-day filming weeks are also being explored.
Regarding launch pads, the goal has been to get new written episodes on the air by mid-February following the Super Bowl; early March has also been considered.
With new series, the problem is even more complex because they require more time to start production and frequently require longer to get momentum with viewers. ABC’s highly anticipated new series High Potential was already moved to fall due to a tight production schedule and short runway in the spring of 2024; there probably will be more as November draws to a close.