As Hollywood can’t wait to close the book on one of the most disruptive years in history, marked by a industry-paralyzing double strike that shut down production for more than six months, there is a lot of hope riding on 2024. There is also a dose of anxiety about what exactly the new normal would be.

The new year is expected to bring a selling frenzy. With few writers writing spec scripts during the work stoppage as most focused on strike duties, an anticipated post-strike spec market did not materialize. Unsure whether the main networks and platforms would be open for new business right away or busy attaching acting talent to their packages after the November end of the SAG-AFTRA strike, many producers opted to wait until after the holidays to take out their projects.

While there was a trickle of pitches in November and early December, a handful of them selling in competitive situations with big commitments, including the Olivia Spencer-Hannah Waddingham comedy, which landed a straight-to-series order at Prime Video, the proverbial floodgates are expected to open in January for an influx of big packages.

Bidding wars are likely but the overall level of offered commitments will be indicative of how much the industry’s ongoing contraction and increased fiscal discipline have taken hold. With series budgets undergoing a correction while costs are going up, including due to the gains achieved by the WGA and SAG-AFTRA in their recent contract negotiations, lucrative deals for projects not deemed “undeniable” may be hard to come by.

That could also include expensive IP. We’ve had a frothy book market for the last couple of years, ignited by the pandemic and further fueled by the double strike, with new tomes selling in auctions for millions of dollars. Sources expect the frenzy to subside as a high rights price tag carries over to the series’ budget, making a show less feasible to produce efficiently under the constraints of the new economic realities.

What’s more, a book doesn’t necessarily have to be a hot, sought-after title in order to spawn a hit TV adaptation. Two English-language series on Netflix’s most popular list that are based on books, Bridgerton and The Night Agent, didn’t come out of a bidding war over a newly released literary property but from a producer (Bridgerton‘s Shonda Rhimes) and a writer (The Night Agent‘s Shawn Ryan) discovering existing novels as readers and seeking them out for rights acquisition.

The proliferation of mini-rooms was one of WGA’s main demands for reform in the recent negotiations with the studios as they led to writers having to bounce from one to the next to make a living without gaining any producing experience. There were about a dozen mini-rooms open at Netflix and Amazon Studios at any time the year before the strike, with other streamers and networks also employing the development tool.

As the mini-rooms (officially called development rooms) are now regulated in the new WGA contract with guaranteed minimum staffing of three writers-producers and 10-week continuous employment, there has been a noticeable shift away from them. Some networks and streamers instead ask for additional material from the creator, 1-2 backup scripts and a format.

That is the script-to-series template Fox has been using for most drama projects, only opting for writers rooms to produce 3-4 scripts and a bible on densely serialized one-hours.

While Fox is firmly out of the pilot business (only open to occasional comedy presentations), observers suggest that pilots remain a viable development tool and may even get back in vogue and more attractive as proof of concept vs. a writers room.

Even if that is the case, with Netflix also testing the waters, ordering their first comedy pilot in April, we won’t see much pilot action this broadcast season.

As Deadline reported exclusively in November, all but two new broadcast scripted series ordered for this season are being pushed to 2024-05 due to strike-related industrywide production delays.

All of ABC, NBC and Fox new scripted shows are moving from this season to the next, ABC’s High Potential starring Kaitlin Olson; NBC’s St. Denis Medical with Wendi McLendon-Covey and medical drama Dr. Wolf headlined by Zachary Quinto, as well as Fox’s medical drama Doc, starring Molly Parker, and lifeguard drama Rescue: Hi-Surf.

Additionally, two of CBS’ four new series, drama Matlock, headlined by Kathy Bates, and comedy Poppa’s House, starring Damon Wayans and Damon Wayans Jr., are headed to next season, with The Good Wife offshoot Elsbeth, starring Carrie Preston, and Tracker, toplined by Justin Hartley, remaining on track for this midseason.

Pilot season’s main goal is to help the broadcast networks select new scripted series for the following season. All of the Big 4 already having new scripted shows on tap for 2004-05 takes away the urgency of the 2024 pilot season. Add to that the fact that the writers strike ended at the end of September when the broadcast pitch season usually wraps, making for a very truncated 2023 broadcast buying season. The compressed timeline particularly affected dramas, which typically take longer to develop and write.

Still, ABC, CBS and NBC are each planning to order pilots. The volume is expected to be on par or below what they ordered this year, which was an all-time-low 4-5 pilots each spread over comedy and drama. Since fall 2024 is largely set, most of the pilots would be targeting midseason 2025, with a bigger emphasis on comedy than usual given the fact that most banked new scripted series for next season are dramas and that half-hour projects have been easier to get off the ground post-strike.

NBC already has in the works Suits: Los Angeles (working title), a spinoff from the popular USA Network legal drama, which is expected to get a pilot order. Meanwhile, CBS is exploring a potential Fire Country spinoff. ABC, which did not pick up new comedy series for this season, has been prepping a couple of half-hour pilots.

Additionally, Fox recently gave a straight-to-series order to the Canadian co-production Murder In A Small Town under a new international content strategy.

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Source: DLine

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