For the first time since 2007, more than 11,000 members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) are planning to walk out on Tuesday morning. This action could immediately halt the production of several television programs and postpone the launch of new seasons of others later this year.
The union leadership stated that despite their efforts, the studios’ reactions to their suggestions “have been wholly insufficient, given the existential crisis writers face.” They’ve shut the door on their workforce and let writers work solely as independent contractors. This membership could never consider such a deal.
The WGA tweeted that it would not erect picket lines until Tuesday afternoon, even though union members will go on strike starting at 3 am EDT on Tuesday. In response, the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP), which is negotiating on behalf of studio management, said it was willing to strengthen its offer but was not ready to satisfy all of the union’s demands.
The Guild’s ideas that would oblige a corporation to staff a show with a set number of writers for a specified amount of time, whether needed or not, are “mandatory staffing” and “duration of employment,” according to the statement from management’s negotiating group.
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“Member companies remain united in their desire to reach a deal mutually advantageous to writers and the health and longevity of the industry, and to avoid hardship for the thousands of employees who depend on the industry for their livelihoods,” the statement from the member companies reads.
The separation between the two sides hinted that this might begin a lengthy strike. The most recent strike, which started in November 2007 and lasted until February 2008, lasted 100 days. After the talks ended more than three hours before the strike deadline on Monday night, according to AMPTP, no words were scheduled for Tuesday.
The final episodes of many cable and broadcast network programs have already been shot. Still, viewers may notice an influence on late-night programs, daytime soap operas, and programs like “Saturday Night Live,” which may have early season endings.
Due to the film and TV writers’ strike, “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” will start running rerun episodes on Tuesday, according to people close to the shows. Seth Meyers, the program has warned his audience that if there is a strike, Late Night with Seth Meyers won’t be airing because he was on the picket line as a writer at SNL during the previous strike.
Both parties claim that they are experiencing financial hardship during the strike. Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), CBS (VIAC), Disney (DIS), NBC Universal, Netflix (NFLX), Paramount Global, Sony (SNE), and CNN’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, are among the companies represented under the multi-employer pact between the WGA and AMPTP. The stock prices of several of those businesses have fallen, forcing drastic cost cuts, including layoffs.
However, as the industry shifts away from traditional broadcast and cable programming and toward streaming services, writers—many of whom cannot support themselves solely through their writing—suffer from fewer job opportunities and the loss of some sources of income. Many intricate procedures and contract clauses would confuse someone outside of the industry in the distance between the two sides, but much of it is driven by money.
In a summary of the two sides’ views, the Writers Guild claims that the union’s proposals would result in annual gains for writers of roughly $429 million compared to the AMPTP’s offer of about $86 million. These projections were disputed by AMPTP, who noted that they were hypothetical because it was unclear how many films and television programs would be ordered or renewed over the contract’s three years.
Even though not all WGA members are currently on the job, thousands of other employees who work on television and film sets may soon be laid off due to the strike. The strike may significantly impact the industry and the economies of Southern California and certain other places, like New York City.
According to an estimate by AMPTP, 20,000 individuals employed on as many as 600 films would lose their jobs if the authors decide to halt work. Most of the $2 billion in economic losses from the 2007 strike occurred in Southern California. That amounts to about $3 billion in today’s dollars after inflation.
Increase in streaming
Since the previous strike ended 15 years ago, the industry has significantly transformed. Since the last session of negotiations in 2020 during the early weeks of the pandemic, those developments have quickened. Studios modified their business structures to adapt to how people were now consuming movies and television series due to the growth of streaming services.
Instead of more than 20 episodes like traditional TV shows, many streaming shows have substantially shorter seasons, perhaps eight to ten episodes. Additionally, fewer writers are employed by many shows than in the past. Less writing jobs and income prospects result from all of this. Furthermore, there is a heated debate over how writers are compensated. Writers typically receive residuals when a show they wrote gets bought to run again in syndication or on basic cable.
Over the years, it has served as a significant source of income for many writers. However, given the current state of contracts, they are unlikely to receive any residuals, let alone significant ones, when they produce original content for streaming services. The Guild fought in these discussions for some form of ongoing pay from streaming services as they were poised to become the future of television entertainment.
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Due to the streaming services’ insatiable appetite for content, the strike’s effects on production schedules may not be seen for as long as previously anticipated. Usually, broadcast programs scheduled to begin airing at the beginning of the fall season would go on break for a few months. But compared to earlier times, productions occur more frequently throughout the year.
The studios are less reliant on advertising revenue that can be lost due to the necessity to screen repeats on broadcast or cable channels thanks to streaming services, even though many of them are not yet financially successful. Additionally, streaming services have a sizable library of older content that might satisfy their users while they wait for new episodes, at least temporarily.
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