New York () — More than 11,000 members of the Writers Guild of America went on strike Tuesday morning for the first time since 2007, a move that could immediately halt production on many television series and possibly delay the start of new seasons of others later this year.
“Although we negotiated with the intention of reaching a fair agreement… the studio responses to our proposals have been totally inadequate, given the existential crisis that screenwriters are facing,” said a statement from the union’s leadership.
“They have closed the door on their workforce and have opened the door to writing as a fully independent profession. No such deal could ever be contemplated by this affiliation.”
While union members would be on strike starting at 3 a.m. ET Tuesday, the Writers Guild (WGA) tweeted that he would not picket the streets until this Tuesday afternoon.
The studios, which revealed that talks ended without a deal late on Monday, just hours before the strike deadline, responded by saying they were willing to improve their offer but were unwilling to meet some of the union’s demands.
“The main sticking points are ‘mandatory staffing’ and ‘length of employment’ – that is, union proposals that would force a company to staff a show with a certain number of writers for a period of time. of specific time, regardless of whether they are needed or not,” says the statement of the management negotiating committee.
“Member companies remain united in their desire to reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial 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 livelihood.”
The distance between the two parties suggests that it could be the start of a long strike. The last strike, which began in November 2007, lasted 100 days, until February 2008.
Many shows on cable and television networks have already filmed their last episodes of the current season, but viewers could see an impact on late-night shows, daytime soap operas, and shows like “Saturday Night Live,” which could have early season ends.
Late-night talk show host Seth Meyers, who was on the picket line as a writer on “Saturday Night Live” during the last strike, prepared his viewers for “Late Night with Seth Meyers” not be on the air if there was a strike. Other programs that could be affected did not immediately respond to requests for comment on their plans.
The strike comes at a time when both sides say they are experiencing financial difficulties.
Many of the media and technology companies that produce shows the writers work on have seen their stock prices plummet, prompting significant spending cuts, including layoffs.
The management side of the negotiations is represented by the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), CBS (VIAC), Disney (DIS), NBC Universal, Netflix (NFLX), Paramount Global, Sony (SNE) and ‘s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery.
But screenwriters, many of whom cannot support themselves by writing alone, are suffering from reduced job opportunities and loss of some sources of income due to a shift in the industry from traditional broadcast and cable programming to streaming services.
Although not all WGA members are currently working, the strike could soon put thousands of other workers on movie and series sets out of work. The strike could have far-reaching repercussions for the industry and for the economies of southern California and some other locations, such as New York.
According to an estimate by the AMPTP, some 20,000 people who work in some 600 productions could lose their jobs if the scriptwriters stop production.
The rise of streaming
The 2007 strike is estimated to have caused $2 billion worth of economic damage, primarily in southern California. Adjusted for inflation, that number now stands at nearly $3 billion. The sector has changed radically in the 15 years since the last strike.
Those changes have accelerated since the last round of negotiations in 2020, in the first weeks of the pandemic. The rise of streaming services has changed the way audiences consume both TV shows and movies, and studios have adjusted their business models in an attempt to respond.
Traditionally, writers received residual pay when a show they wrote was sold for rerun in syndication or on basic cable. It has been a major source of income for many screenwriters over the years. But they are unlikely to receive significant residual pay, if any, when they create original content for streaming services, as the contracts stand today.
With streaming services poised to become the future of television entertainment, the Writers Guild was fighting these negotiations over some sort of ongoing compensation from streaming services.
The hunger for content on the part of those streaming services also means it might not be long before the strike starts to affect production schedules. Typically, shows due to air with the start of the fall season would be on hiatus for the next two months. But today the productions take place throughout the year.
Although many streaming services are not yet profitable, they provide studios with a source of income from subscribers’ monthly fees, making them less dependent on advertising revenue that could be lost due to the need to air reruns on streaming channels. broadcast or cable.
Streaming services also have a huge backlog of old content that could keep their customers satisfied, at least temporarily, while they wait for new shows.