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As the SAG-AFTRA Strike Continues, HBO Still Has a Lot of Decisions to Make

HBO programming chief Casey Bloys said on Thursday he’s already had to “adjust across the board” his slate for HBO and Max because of the impact of the recently ended writers and still-ongoing actors strikes. With SAG-AFTRA still picketing the Warner Bros. Discovery offices (and others), those adjustments are proving to be anything but final.

One-on-one with Bloys following a presentation of his 2024 slate, IndieWire asked what pending decisions still have to be made in the event a seemingly imminent SAG deal again proves elusive. Are there still potential cancellations coming? Could the axe even drop on a series previously picked up for another season? And could something as small as continuity seal the fate for a project that has sat on the shelf too long?

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“All of the above,” Bloys responded. He’s been through lengthy shutdowns before; remember COVID?

Bloys, of course, hopes push does not come to shove, and he remains optimistic that the SAG-AFTRA strike will end sooner, rather than later. The chatter around town is that a deal could be struck as early as this week, and those on the studio side believe any later would make it near impossible to start production up in time before the end of the year. That, or those typically lengthy holiday breaks will be the things getting canceled.

Still, we’ve been here before: it seemed imminent early in October before the studios walked away. Now that they’ve been back at the table, talks have been “cautiously optimistic” for the better part of a week. The actors guild revealed late on November 1 that the negotiating committee and AMPTP are still talking through a lot of issues around the nitty gritty of A.I.

“We would all like to get back to work,” Bloys said during Thursday’s press conference, but even more so he wants “everyone to come back to work happy.”

Bloys acknowledged that his decision-making is far from over, and he may even have to split some seasons into parts. “But I’m hopeful I don’t have to figure those things out. Obviously if it continues, we’ve got plans. It would probably involve moving some things,” Bloys said during the press event. “There are some shows that I showed you that are available earlier than others. So we’ve got scenarios that we would employ, but I’m really really hoping that we don’t have to.”

Among some of the changes already announced, “The White Lotus” Season 3 won’t come back until 2025, though it might have been on deck for a 2024 release, if not for the strikes. “The Last of Us” Season 2 will now shoot in early 2024 for a spring 2025 release. “Hacks” Season 3 is partly through production; that could be an example of a full season we end up consuming in two halves. “It” prequel “Welcome to Derry” was slated for Halloween 2024; it will now most likely be 2025.

Bloys was also asked if the increases the writers (and soon, it seems, the actors) will get in minimum wages and other bonuses will impact the content decisions HBO is able to make. Not really. “We’ve been through strikes before. They raise the costs. There’s nothing coming out of the strikes where I go, ‘Well, now I’m not going to make this show.’ It increases episodically the cost of course, but I don’t see a scenario where I go, well I was going to make another tentpole show, but now I’m not going to because now I have to pay X-amount more. I don’t think it works like that,” he said.

Bloys continued, “The bigger impact of this environment is dictated more by what’s the right amount of money to spend in streaming, how do you make money in that, as opposed to costs have gone up X-percent because of new minimums. I don’t see that affecting individual decisions. That’s something you have to take into account, but I don’t see it affecting the kinds of shows that we make.”

IndieWire later asked Bloys if the savings on production costs during the strikes can be reapplied in longer seasons, bigger budgets, or extra pickups. He said he’ll defer to the finance brains on this one, but we didn’t see Warner Bros. Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels by the cookie bar.

Reporting by Tony Maglio.

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