Executives from Hollywood studios and networks say current Writers Guild of America demands could bankrupt the film and TV industries, and they are "concerned" that a strike may be imminent.
At a press conference in Los Angeles, ABC head Bob Iger also made a threat to TV writers: either sign a new contract with the studios by the time of the network upfronts or face a fall season filled with reality programs and news shows.
"In my opinion, in my strong opinion," he told reporters, "when the networks sit down to consider what they are going to put on their fall schedules, if the situation between these companies and the Guild remains where it is today, with no end in sight and no solution, etc., the networks are going to have to make decisions on what to put on their schedule, and there will be far fewer scripted programs put on that schedule because they are going to have to protect themselves.
"When that process begins, it is irreversible. When you make commitments to programs that are not Guild-covered, it will be on their schedule, and it will go into production on a timely basis. That, in effect, will severely reduce the number of scripted programs on the schedule."
Law & Order producer/writer Dick Wolf, who is a member of both the writers' and producers' guilds, called Iger's comments "ludicrous, incendiary, counter-productive and an insult to the intelligence of working writers."
The studios and networks' three-year contract with the WGA is up May 1, and talks broke off three weeks ago. Studio executives say the two sides are more than $110 million apart on a new contract and a strike could cost the Los Angeles area more than $2 billion per month if film and TV production is terminated.
"The WGA had no comment at press time.