Programming

WGA STRIKE UPDATE: NBC Keeping Current Pilot Script Slate

Network Won’t follow CBS, Fox, The CW in Cutting Back on Pilot Scripts 1/23/2008 03:00:00 PM Eastern

NBC Universal executives confirmed Wednesday that the network currently does not have plans to jettison a batch of pilot scripts as CBS, Fox and The CW have done to dozens of projects in the wake of the writers’ strike.

“We had a lot of internal talks about this collectively and this whole period has been painful on all sides,” NBC Entertainment executive vice president Teri Weinberg said in an interview Wednesday night. “But we bet on the writers we were in business with, and we feel that it is important for us to give them the opportunities that we bet on.”

Weinberg also maintained that the network’s recent primetime struggles (although it has done better this strike-affected January) had nothing to do with it wanting to keep as many scripts as possible to try and swing out of its slump.

Universal Media Studios chief Katherine Pope is optimistic that the current talks between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers will be fruitful and that scripted development can get back on track.

“We’ve all had to make choices we never want to make,” she said Wednesday night of the cost-cutting going on around the industry. “But we haven’t seen a lot of these scripts and we hope we are getting close [to the strike ending].”

NBCU will hold on to all of its projects knowing full well that even if the strike ends soon, a full development slate for the fall is doubtful.

“Let’s not say, ‘We’ll never have time to do all of these,’ and throw them out,” Pope said. “Some of them may go direct to series or to backdoor pilots or to traditional pilots. We are doing more things on a rolling basis, really treating it as year-round development.”

NBC’s decision comes one day after Fox and The CW said they are scaling back on their batches of pilot scripts as the networks continue to institute budgetary cutbacks in the wake of the writers' strike.

"In the current environment, we've been forced to take a hard look at our needs for the upcoming season,” Fox said in a statement. "And as a result, we're going to target a more focused range of projects."

"Due to the ongoing work stoppage, The CW will be taking a more targeted approach to what is certain to be a truncated pilot season," The CW said in a statement. "As a result, we are releasing some scripts that had been in development in order to dedicate our creative energy and resources to those projects we choose to pursue."

While network executives have long talked about wanting to reinvent the annual development cycle, the strike has given the networks the impetus to begin scaling back, with Fox and The CW joining CBS in letting development projects go.

In addition to probably making fewer pilots, the media conglomerates’ studios also dropped dozens of holding deals with writers and producers, most of whom are not currently involved in projects on the air or in active development.

For full coverage of the strike, click here.

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