Hollywood Writers Reach Agreement to End Strike

From a Wall Street Journal story by Joe Flint headlined “Hollywood Writers Reach Agreement with Studios, Streamers to End Strike”:

Hollywood writers, studios and streamers said Sunday that they have reached a tentative agreement that would end a monthslong strike.

The new three-year deal includes several hard-fought victories for the writers including increased royalties, mandatory staffing for television “writing rooms” and protections regarding the use of artificial intelligence, people familiar with the pact said.

Neither side would address the terms of the accord. The Writers Guild of America said it is still finalizing the memorandum of agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, a coalition representing movie and TV studios, networks and streamers. The negotiating committee will then vote on whether to recommend it and send the contract forward for approval.

Until that happens, writers have been instructed not to return to work by the WGA. However, that both sides are acknowledging a deal after months of contentious negotiations is seen as the beginning of the end of the strike.

Both sides agreed to terms just after reaching a self-imposed deadline of Sunday evening before the start of the Yom Kippur holiday.

The deal comes after five consecutive days of talks that involved Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, Disney CEO Bob Iger, Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos and NBCUniversal Studios Group Chairman Donna Langley.

A resolution to the writers’ strike could open the door to a deal with the Screen Actors Guild, the performer’s union that has been on strike since mid-July. It marked the first time both unions went on strike since 1960.

Getting both strikes resolved could salvage at least some of the 2023-24 television season and the summer movie season. Typically in television it takes at least two months of outlining and writing episodes before production starts.

The WGA went on strike May 2, closing writing rooms industrywide. The strike quickly shut down late night TV shows and stalled work on scripted television shows and films. Members of the union, which represents 11,500 writers, mobilized to form picket lines outside productions with finished scripts to disrupt those shoots.

The Los Angeles economy has been severely hurt by the strike: A spate of productions ground to a halt, and thousands of other Hollywood workers dependent on the industry for their livelihoods have been sitting on the sidelines. The Milken Institute has projected the hit to California’s economy to be in the billions. Other states feeling the pinch from the shutdown include Georgia and New Mexico.

Among the WGA’s demands were a minimum number of writers per television show and guaranteed employment for those writers from conception to postproduction. They also wanted additional residuals from streaming programs and more transparency around how streaming shows fared with viewers.

The use of artificial intelligence and the staffing mandates were particularly difficult areas to find common ground. The studios and streamers were initially against any mandatory staffing, and their unwillingness to negotiate on that point was one of the key reasons talks never really gained any traction last spring.

In recent weeks, the Alliance gave ground on the staffing issues as well as exploring the idea of changing formulas for streaming residuals that would reward success more than the current model.

While a tentative agreement is good news, the strike has already done a lot of damage to the industry. Movie studios began delaying major film releases, networks changed fall prime-time lineups, and entertainment companies put talent deals on hold. Some executives began questioning the viability of the 2023-2024 television season and planned theatrical releases early next year if the strike dragged on into October.

Negotiations between the WGA and AMPTP initially restarted on Aug. 11, which gave some in the industry hope that the dispute would soon be resolved. Those talks stalled, and relations between the two sides grew nastier.

The AMPTP in late August made public its latest offer to striking writers. The WGA criticized the offer and the AMPTP’s decision to make it public, which some viewed as an attempt to undermine the union’s hold on its membership.

In early September, some top showrunners reached out to the union to express concern about the lack of negotiations, which put more pressure on the WGA to get back to the table. “Shameless” producer John Wells, “Riverdale” producer Greg Berlanti and Ryan Murphy, whose credits include “Dahmer—Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” were among those showrunners, the Journal previously reported.

Around that time, daytime talk show host Drew Barrymore and HBO’s Bill Maher said they planned to resume shooting so that their staff could work, but reversed the decisions after industry backlash.

In a statement, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists applauded the tentative pact.

“SAG-AFTRA congratulates the WGA on reaching a tentative agreement with the AMPTP after 146 days of incredible strength, resiliency and solidarity on the picket lines,” the statement said. “While we look forward to reviewing the WGA and AMPTP’s tentative agreement, we remain committed to achieving the necessary terms for our members.”

While the WGA talks have been the primary focus of the AMPTP, there have been some talks with the actors guild in the hopes of wrapping up a deal as quickly as possible, people close to the Alliance said.

Speak Your Mind