Strike TV Program Forecast: Cloudy With A Chance of Unscripted TV

If the writers' and actors' strikes last well into the new TV season, starting in September,  many broadcast networks' schedules will be affected -- but perhaps only to a smaller degree in terms of historical estimates of time spent among scripted TV series.

Analysis of networks' fourth-quarter 2022 programming reveals that CBS had 21% of its time viewed coming from scripted TV series in terms of first-run airings, according to MoffettNathanson Research. ABC came in at 14%, with NBC at 11%.

Only 5% of Fox Television Network's viewing time came from scripted TV a year ago. The network gets a massive 81% share of its total viewing from sports programming -- from content including NFL and Major League Baseball.



Research from a year ago shows that unscripted programming actually has a greater share of total day time viewed among CBS, ABC, and NBC -- getting 36% 54%, and 52%, respectively.

Comparatively, unscripted -- and other non-scripted TV content -- has a much larger share of time viewed when it comes to cable TV networks.

Paramount Global cable networks are at a 94% share, while Warner Bros. Discovery is at 74%; NBCUniversal, 51%; and Walt Disney 50%.

Mid-size cable groups -- AMC Network and A&E Networks -- are at 97% and 92%, respectively.

In addition, TV advertising monetization for cable networks is pushed by rerun programming of all types -- scripted, unscripted and otherwise.

Robert Fishman, media analyst of MoffettNathanson Research, writes: “The strikes should have less of an impact across cable networks than broadcast networks as reruns already drive most of the viewership across every company’s portfolio.”

Overall, many network prime-time schedules have been “reworked to exclude most new scripted content, instead leaning heavier on unscripted programming and reruns.”  

This also includes reruns of originals that ran streaming platforms and other cable networks.

An example of this is Paramount Network’s hit show “Yellowstone,” where reruns will run on CBS' prime-time schedule this fall.

Overall, Fishman says, a strike period that is long in duration will see current linear TV double-digit viewing declines accelerating:  “The loss of scripted content...  could lead to greater declines of an even more dramatic nature.”

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