After negotiations with studios fell through, TV and movie writers have gone on strike for the first time in 15 years.
The walkout could last for weeks, even months. This could mean a production halt on everything from popular late-night series to streaming hits. Here’s what happened and what might happen next.
Writers Guild of America members, 11,500 writers in film and television, are negotiating with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents eight major studios, including Amazon, Apple, and Disney. Paramount Global owns CBS News and Paramount+.
According to the Los Angeles Times, WGA members are involved in film, television, animation, and fiction podcasts.
The production of late-night shows that are written every day is expected to cease immediately. Jimmy Kimmel Live!, “The Late Show on CBS” and “The Tonight Show” are all expected to stop production immediately. On Tuesday, ABC will be rerunning “The Tonight Show”, “Late Night”, “The Daily Show”, and “The Tonight Show” (NBC).
It is less clear how daytime talk shows, which rely on the chit-chat of hosts and celebrity interviews to some extent, might be affected. The production of ABC’s “The View”, for instance, continued unabated during the previous strike in the 2007-2008 season.
Streaming networks, on the other hand, are unlikely to experience an immediate impact due to their longer timelines compared with late-night television.
Some TV hosts have expressed their support for the strike writers. Stephen Colbert, the host of “The Late Show”, Monday night, expressed his support for the strikers.
“Everyone, including me, hopes that both sides can reach an agreement,” he said. “But, I think the demands of the writers are reasonable.” I am a guild member. I am in favor of collective bargaining. “Unions owe so much to this nation.”
Seth Meyers (a WGA member) also spoke on “Late Night Friday” in support of striking writers. He said that a strike would be “a really miserable thing for people to go through.”
He said that writers “have a right to earn a living”. “I believe it is a very reasonable request that the guild has made. “I support these demands.”
According to the WGA, the WGA contends that the WGA’s main concern is the WGA’s opposition to streaming services, their effects on writers, and the erosion of their pay and job security.
The guild stated that despite the fact that budgets for television series are increasing, writers still receive a smaller portion of the revenue. The streaming services have smaller staffs of writers, called “mini rooms” by the industry. They also tend to run shorter seasons than traditional broadcast shows. Some writers are left scrambling for multiple sources of income within a single season.
The WGA stated that showrunners of streaming series earn less than half as much as showrunners of broadcast series. The WGA wants to ensure that its members receive more money upfront because they don’t have the same back-end payments as broadcasters and screenwriters.
According to the guild, since 2018, the inflation-adjusted salary for screenwriters is down 14%. Pay has fallen 23% for writer-producers.
According to the WGA’s counter, the Writers Guild is seeking an increase in total compensation for its members of $429 million annually, while the AMPTP wants to see $86 million.
In the last decade, the number of writers earning guild minimum wages has increased from about one-third to around half. Streaming services do not have minimum pay protections for writers of comedy variety shows. They are paid less and receive a lower salary than their broadcast counterparts.
Variety reports that the WGA’s minimum pay varies depending on the writer’s position and the length of their employment contract. However, the minimum wage for the lowest-paid writer is $4,546 per week.
WGA leadership released a statement on Monday saying that studios have “closed the door” to their workforce and made writing a completely freelance career. This has created “a gig economy within a unionized workforce,” the WGA leadership said.
Studios say they’re thinking of the future health of the film industry. The AMPTP stated Monday that the main sticking point in a deal was the guild’s demand for a minimum of scribes to be present per writer room. The group said that it had also included “generous increases in compensation for authors as well as improvements to streaming residuals.”
Hollywood faces increased pressure to make a profit from Wall Street. Many studios and production firms are cutting back on spending after years of extravagant spending to expand streaming. Walt Disney Co., for example, is cutting 7,000 positions, Warner Bros. Discovery has cut costs to reduce its debt, and Netflix has put a brake on the growth of spending.
CBS News reports that “the current streaming services are not profitable in the majority of cases.” Alex Weprin is a media and business reporter at the Hollywood Reporter. These large entertainment companies don’t have a clear idea of the profitability of these services and how much money they can pay to writers.
Guild writers are also arguing against the use of AI in scripts. They want strict limitations on its usage. They do not want AI to rewrite scripts created by humans, nor should AI rewrite any material that is generated by AI. Instead, they want AI to avoid rewriting union-protected material.
Studio executives have rejected these requests, which one writer called “insulting.”
Adam Conover, a writer, and comedian, said on Twitter: “We fight for nothing less than the survival of writing as an actual career.”
We proposed that comedy/variety and daytime writers on streaming have the same pay and protections as they do on TV. Instead, they offered us a minimum that would apply to virtually no shows on the air, oh and also, they’re want to start paying you by the day.
— Adam Conover (@adamconover) May 2, 2023