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Networks tighten wallets, make more cuts

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If the current writers strike continues, Hollywood may have to crack open its emergency piggy bank.

With work on television programs almost at a complete standstill, development deals have been dropped, jobs have been cut, and cupboards are starting to look a little bare. Tinseltown is on day 80 of the current strike (only 74 more days to break the all-time record set in 1988), and studios continue to trim the fat off their bloated development slate in an effort to stay afloat.

NBC Universal chief David Zucker confirmed that his company would be cutting back on its pilot season drastically, according to The New York Times. Developing flashy pilots to garner early interest from advertisers has become standard in the business, and in an attempt to outdo each other, networks have raised the average cost of pilots more than twofold, with one-hour shows costing about $7 million.

Many shows don't make it to a second season, and a handful of pilots never even make it to air. NBC U hopes that by not paying for stuff it won't use, it can save about $50 million with a stunted development season.

The same is happening over at other networks, as CBS, The CW, and Fox have all cut several scripts currently in development. All three networks are streamlining their development slate by narrowing their focus on fewer projects.

"Due to the ongoing work stoppage, the CW will be taking a more targeted approach to what is certain to be a truncated pilot season," the network told The Hollywood Reporter. "As a result, we are releasing some scripts that had been in development in order to dedicate our creative energy and resources to those projects we choose to pursue."

The moves were expected from an industry grappling with the strike, and the smart money is on ABC to follow suit shortly. About a week ago, almost all the major networks simultaneously cut dozens of development contracts with major players in the industry.

There's no exact way to measure the cost of the strike to the economy, but one analyst from the Los Angeles Economic Development pegs the price at a whopping $1.5 billion to the Southern Californian economy, according to MSNBC. With awards shows and television programs at a standstill, several types of peripheral Hollywood jobs--makeup artists, valet parkers, caterers, and more--are feeling the pinch.

There is a new glimmer of hope, however. The two feuding sides, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), have agreed to get back to negotiating for the first time since early December.

For more on the writers strike, check out TV.com's Strike Source, featuring up-to-date statuses on shows, the latest information, and more.

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