A strike by thousands of American film and television writers demanding better wages looms over Hollywood this Monday, a few hours before the notice period stipulated for 12 pm (local time) expires. Such a strike would immediately paralyze several of the most successful productions and significantly delay TV series and movies scheduled for release in 2023.
Threat to the late shows and the series? A strike by thousands of American film and television writers to demand better wages is looming this Monday in Hollywood due to lack of agreements, hours before a notice period expires.
Big studios and platforms, including Disney and Netflix, are in talks with the powerful Writers Guild of America (WGA), which is threatening to call a strike starting at midnight local time if an agreement is not reached.
This would cause the immediate closure of popular programs, such as late nightand would significantly delay TV series and movies scheduled for release this year.
The last major Hollywood strike was the writers’ strike that paralyzed the US television industry between 2007 and 2008. The 100-day strike cost the industry $2 billion.
Screenwriters are demanding a pay rise and a bigger share of the profits of the streamingwhile studios say they have to cut costs due to economic pressures.
“Everybody feels like there’s going to be a strike,” a Los Angeles television writer said on condition of anonymity. At stake is “an agreement that will determine how we will be paid” for the streamingboth now and in the future, he added.
Screenwriters say they are struggling to make a living from their craft, with wages stagnating or even declining due to inflation, while their employers reap benefits and raise their executives’ salaries.
They argue that there are more people than ever working for the minimum wage set by the unions, while the television networks hire fewer people to write ever shorter series.
Netflix, “the only profitable platform”
One of the main disagreements is how to calculate the salary of series writers in streamingwhich on platforms like Netflix usually remain visible for years after being written.
For decades, screenwriters have received “residual royalties” for the reuse of their work, for example in television reruns or DVD sales.
This is either a percentage of the revenue that studios earn for the movie or series, or a fixed amount paid for each rerun of an episode.
With the streamingthe writers receive a fixed amount each year, even if their work is a worldwide success, such as the series ‘Bridgerton’ or ‘Stranger Things’which are watched by hundreds of millions of viewers around the world.
The WGA calls for an increase in these amounts, which are currently “too low in view of the massive international reuse” of these programs. He also wants to discuss the future impact of artificial intelligence on the screenwriting profession.
The studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), recall that “residual fees” paid to screenwriters reached a record level of $494 million in 2021, up from $333 million ten years earlier. This, in part, thanks to the explosion of screenwriting jobs linked to the increase in demand for streaming.
After being wasteful in recent years as rival chains tried to boost subscriber numbers at all costs, bosses say they are now under intense pressure from investors to cut back and turn a profit.
And they deny that they are using the economic difficulties to strengthen their position in the negotiations with the scriptwriters.
“Do you think Disney would fire 7,000 people just because?” said a source close to the AMPTP. According to it, “there is only one platform that is profitable at the moment, and that is Netflix.” In addition, the film industry “is a very competitive sector.”
This text was adapted from its original in French.