New U.S. season, int'l biz still reeling from strike.

 
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In July, Fox international distribution announced that it had officially split its 2008 development season into three parts--the first part being the L.A. Screenings in May, the second being another set of screenings that took place in London in mid-September, and the final part to take place at MIPCOM. The move comes five months after a 100 day-long Hollywood writers' strike that brought the entertainment industry to its knees, forcing U.S. TV networks to order fewer pilots during pilot season. Each U.S. broadcast network had to rethink the way it did business. Then, at the upfronts in New York in May, NBC, for example, opted to announce its complete 52-week programming strategy, while ABC picked up just two new fall shows. Some studios, including NBC Universal and CBS Paramount, decided to hold another round of pilot screenings in the fall (see related story on page 54).

Speaking to journalists at the L.A.-based TV Critics Association event over the summer, Fox TV president of Entertainment Kevin Reilly said, "We'll screen at least eight things in December [for advertisers] and coming out of that, I'd expect a couple of early series orders and a couple of things to begin queuing up. That's going to be the next step towards programming year-round, which we have been experimenting with for some time." He said the strike forced Fox to rethink its development strategy. "For us, it was an opportunity to finally kind of force the hand of something that we were trying to evolve towards anyway," he said.

"We're taking a screening room for three days at MIPCOM to screen pilot episodes for people who want to see them," said Twentieth Century Fox's Marion Edwards. "This is the first time we've ever done that. But it was necessary given that we didn't have the opportunity to do so at the L.A. Screenings." Edwards also added that the entire industry has been "waiting to exhale" since the start of the writers' strike last year, but that no one will be able to breathe easy until the threat of another strike--this time from the Screen Actors Guild (or SAG)--has been averted. "As soon as the Actors Guild reaches an agreement, we'll be able to return to a normal pattern," she said.

But when or if that will happen remains unclear. SAG's contract expired in June, but the organization, never one to pass up an opportunity for infighting, has yet to decide on a new agreement. Some studios are moving up production on some series and films, while others are...

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