How Brands Can Plan Throughout the WGA and SAG-AFTRA Strikes

The recent upfronts had lots of big questions swirling around them pertaining to recent mergers, new streaming services and Netflix’s first foray into the annual event. But the loudest questions were about the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike—and the volume has only increased since the upfronts wrapped. 

We’re at a point in the year where many agencies and brands usually have an idea of what their upcoming TV plans will look like, but that’s not the case right now. The ongoing WGA strike is having an immediate impact on the TV ad market, slowing down an upfront process that was already going to face economic headwinds. With the studios’ intent to simply ride it out until the writers run out of funds, and with actors now on strike as well, there is a lot of uncertainty swirling around the TV ad market. 

Here’s a look at what buyers need to know about the current landscape, and how they can gameplan to execute smart TV buys amid the uncertainty. 

The immediate programming impact 

To be clear, the strikes are impacting the programming that major brands and agencies are already negotiating around. Disney has recently paused filming on Blade and Thunderbolts, while there’s a long list of streaming series reportedly experiencing production delays, including Stranger Things, Emily in Paris, Hacks, Yellowjackets, Cobra Kai, Unstable, Big Mouth, The Last of Us and Yellowstone. With these large marquee titles pausing production, many shows that were set to premiere in Q4 will now premiere in Q1 2024 or scattered later in the year. Large-scale movies from Disney will even move into 2025.

While the above list is long, it’s a drop in the bucket. Scripted content accounted for 64% of TV and movie content on the major streaming platforms in 2022—nearly two-thirds of all new content for the year. 

Networks are building their backup plans and preparing to pivot into different programming—much like when production stopped at the height of the pandemic and networks pivoted into news, reality, game shows and animation to fill airtime. Expect major streamers to lean into programming from other countries as well: Netflix has a successful track record of doing this with shows like Squid Games and Money Heist. 

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