All those panicky phone calls and emails from showrunners and writer-producers can stop. Fox hasn’t fired you. But they have suspended all their showrunners/writer-producers who are not doing their producer duties — which pretty much amounts to nearly all of them because “only a tiny number” are still making series, Fox tells me. That means no more pay for the present. Of course, this doesn’t mean the letters that went out Wednesday night couldn’t escalate at some point in the future into full-fledged firings. “If we do that, it’s down the line. Nothing has happened like that yet,” a Fox source told me just now. “At this stage the only thing we’ve done is stop payments to the hyphenates and showrunners because they have not shown up this week.”
However, unlike the CBS letters sent out earlier in the week, the Fox letters don’t threaten to sue but “reserve the right” to sue, which is less hardline than les Moonves’ missives. “He’s been a little bit of a cowboy and more militant,” the Fox source told me. ABC Studios/Touchstone also sent out similar suspension letters this week, I have just learned.
To clarify even further I just received this Fox statement: “We sent out suspension letters to all our showrunner/hyphenates two days ago alerting them that we were suspending their deals. They have not been fired. Their deals have been suspended because they have failed to provide non-writing services on remaining episodes of their series. We have merely stopped compensating them for the simple reason that they have stopped working.”
Here’s the difference, if they’re fired and once the strike ends, Fox can choose whether or not to rehire the showrunenrs and hyphenates. But if they are fired, the showrunners can ALSO choose whether or not to go back. The conventional wisdom is that the studios are purposely waiting for the period of weeks to pass so that they can, in a major reorganization of their TV business, force majeure those overall deals they made with TV showrunners and hyphenates, many of whom have 7 figure deals yet are producing nothing right now. I’m told that at Fox, while How I Met Your Mother had last day, and Back To You already shutdown, series like Journeyman, 24, and My Name Is Earl are still up and running — for now.