Cablers seem ready for the short term

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With the broadcasters bracing for a blow that would come with a WGA strike, the cable networks appear to be in somewhat better shape.

Cable networks that are airing original scripted series tend to air new episodes over the summer for the most part, meaning most of their schedules would not be affected to a large degree for several months. That being said, cable's scripted business would be in trouble come spring if there were no scripts to shoot.

FX's "Nip/Tuck" could see a disruption in its fifth season, which premiered Tuesday night. The network originally ordered 22 episodes to air in separate cycles, 14 in the first half, followed by another eight. The network is in the midst of shooting Episode 12.

Scripts of the first 14 episodes have all been handed in, meaning the show will air its first group of new episodes through February as planned, but the latter eight episodes -- whose airdate had yet to be determined -- could be left up in the air in the case of a strike.

Two other FX series also could be impacted: "Dirt" and "The Riches," which went into production on their second seasons at the beginning of October. Seven of 13 scripts for each series have been handed in at this point, which would mean half seasons for each if a strike happened.

"The Shield," meanwhile, wraps production Nov. 13 and will not be affected. "Damages" has not yet been picked up for a second season.

AMC, meanwhile, is gearing up to go into production on the second season of its original series "Mad Men" later this month for a targeted summer debut.

Rob Sorcher, executive vp programming and production at AMC, said the network will be minimally affected should a strike happen.

"We're doing the best we can to minimize impact, and because we're not a volume producer, we're less vulnerable than most," he said.

Sister channels USA Network and Sci Fi Channel also are expecting minimal impact, at least in the short term. Of USA's scripted series, "The Starter Wife," "Burn Notice" and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" are the ones most likely to be affected.

"Wife," the successful miniseries that was given a series pickup last month(oct), is scheduled to go into production in March for a summer bow. "Burn" is targeted to go into production in January for a summer premiere, while "CI" is on hiatus before it starts shooting the second half of its inaugural season as a first-run series on USA.

Sci Fi productions affected will likely be "Eureka," scheduled to start shooting its third season in the spring for a summer bow, and "Battlestar Galactica," which is in production on its final episodes, set to start airing in April.

It's unclear what HBO programs might be disrupted. Upcoming series include "12 Miles of Bad Road" and "In Treatment," while "Tell Me You Love Me" is in the midst of its freshman season and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" recently had its sixth-season bow. Returning next year are series including "Big Love," "Entourage," "Flight of the Conchords."

Asked for comment, HBO responded with a statement.

"Like everyone else, we are following what is going on as closely as possible," the network said. "We are fully prepared for either outcome."

At Comedy Central, the biggest impact will be on its late-night programs "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report," which will initially go into repeats should a strike happen. "South Park" is non-WGA program, while new episodes for "Reno 911!'s" upcoming fifth season as well as "Mind of Mencia" are already in the can. In addition, several scripts for both "The Sarah Silverman Program" and animated series "Lil' Bush" have already been delivered in anticipation of a strike.

Sister network Spike TV also will see minimal impact: The network's schedule is comprised largely of Ultimate Fighting Championship programming, which is unscripted. Spike is mulling bringing sripted drama "The Kill Point" back for another go-round, but no decisions have been made at this point.

For now, Lifetime is banking on its ability to continue airing original programming during a writers' strike because of its ample slate of upcoming original movies. It also is debuting three new reality series -- "How to Look Good Naked," "Matched in Manhattan" (formerly "Matt Titus: Matchmaker") and "It's My Party" -- in January, though it's understood that Lifetime is developing several other reality series that could be fast-tracked in the event of a strike.

The only Lifetime project that will be affected is its original drama series "Army Wives," which is scheduled to go into production on its second season this month(Nov). Its other two original dramas -- "Side Order of Life" and "State of Mind" -- have not yet been given second-season renewals.

Elsewhere, Walt Disney Co.-owned networks including ABC Family and Disney Channel as well as Turner's TBS and TNT declined comment on a potential strike's impact.

A spokesperson for the Disney-owned cable channels would say only that "we're hoping for the best and preparing for the worst."

However, it appears that Disney Channel will see minimal impact. Its live-action series are on hiatus, with the exception of "Cory in the House," which is in production, and "Johnny and the Sprites" wraps Tuesday. Meanwhile, the scripts for its upcoming original movies and new series "J.O.N.A.S." have already been delivered to the network.

ABC Family is bringing "Kyle XY" back for a third season, though the network did not announce a start-of-production date with the pickup announcement since the series was still in production on the back-10 episodes of Season 2. Meanwhile, the back-10 episodes of "Greek" are scheduled to air early next year.

As for TNT, "The Closer's" fourth season is scheduled to premiere for summer, as is the second season of "Saving Grace." TBS has returning series including "My Boys," "The Bill Engvall Show" and "10 Items or Less."

Nickelodeon also did not comment on any impact a strike would have. The kids network recently ordered several comedy pilots (HR 10/22) and airs such scripted live-action series as "iCarly," "Zoey 101" and "The Naked Brothers Band."

A&E Network, which recently handed out four pilot orders as it looks to get back into the original scripted drama business, also is in good position for now, senior vp drama programming Tana Nugent Jamieson said.

"We've all been talking about the potential of a strike, and we've set up our pilots sensing that something like this might be happening," she said. "We're in very good shape on our pilots -- we're good for several months. However, if a strike were to go on for a long time, then it may cause some issues."

Henry Schleiff, president and CEO of Crown Media Holdings, which owns and operates Hallmark Channel, said the network should be in good shape with its original movies, at least for the short term.

"We just recently announced our largest slate of upcoming production, with 30 original movies scheduled for production and exhibition next year, so we have been sensitive and certainly well aware of a potential strike," he said, adding that the network just wrapped production on three titles and has another about to go into production along with several scripts that have already been handed in. "We are in very good shape, at least for the foreseeable future, depending of course on how long a strike goes on for."
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