The Writers Guild of America Resumes Bargaining with Major Studios as Strike Nears Record Length
The ongoing strike by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) against major studios shows no signs of ending soon as the two sides have returned to the bargaining table after a hiatus. The strike, which has now lasted for 142 days and counting, is one of the longest in the history of the entertainment industry. Despite the prolonged negotiations, there has been no resolution yet, and the writers continue to demand fairer pay and better working conditions. The studios, on the other hand, are seeking to cut costs and maintain their profitability. The outcome of these negotiations is highly anticipated by the writers, the studios, and the fans of the affected TV shows and movies.
Top CEOs Join Negotiations in Break from Previous Sessions
The talks held in Sherman Oaks on Wednesday saw a significant departure from the usual sessions, as several top-ranking CEOs participated in the discussions. Among the notable personalities present were Bob Iger, Chairman of Disney; Ted Sarandos, Co-CEO of Netflix; Donna Langley, Chairperson of NBCUniversal; and David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery. Their presence not only added prestige to the event but also brought diverse perspectives to the table.
Increased Involvement of CEOs as Strike Drags On
Throughout the course of the ongoing strike, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which has traditionally relied on professional negotiators to represent the studios in discussions, has seen a shift in the level of involvement of its CEOs. In response to the prolonged nature of the strike, the CEOs have become more personally invested in the negotiations. This heightened level of involvement was highlighted by a meeting on August 22 between the CEOs and leaders of the Writers Guild of America. According to the writers, the meeting turned out to be more of a “lecture” than a discussion.
Waiting for Responses
The past month has witnessed both sides of the negotiation table eagerly awaiting responses to their proposals. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has expressed its concerns about the inflexibility of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and even suggested the possibility of breaking it up in order to adequately address the writers’ demands. The WGA is seeking a better deal for its members, including increased pay, better working conditions, and a fair share of profits from streaming platforms. The AMPTP, on the other hand, is looking to protect its interests and maintain a balance between the needs of its members and the financial viability of the industry. Despite the differences, both sides are committed to finding a mutually beneficial solution and ensuring the continued success of the entertainment industry.
Despite the studios expressing their frustration regarding the requirement to “negotiate against ourselves,” the Writers Guild of America (WGA) claims that the studios have not yet fully addressed all of their concerns. It seems that there are still some unresolved issues that need to be discussed and negotiated before both parties can reach a mutually satisfactory agreement.
Residual Formula and Staffing Levels
One of the major issues being discussed between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the studios is regarding the residual payment formula. The WGA is advocating for a residual formula based on the number of views a show receives on a streaming platform. However, the studios have opposed this idea and although they have agreed to share some viewership data with the union, they are not in favour of implementing this formula.
Another point of contention is the mandatory minimum staffing level for each writers room in television. The WGA is pushing for this requirement, while the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) is proposing to grant showrunners the ability to hire at least two writers per show. These are important factors that will have a significant impact on the writers and the television industry as a whole.
Minimum Rates and Artificial Intelligence
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) has proposed a 15% increase in minimum rates for writer-producers in the first year, which includes the introduction of a new minimum tier that is 10% higher than the existing rates for story editors. However, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) is pushing for a higher tier that is 20% above the story editor rate. One of the key issues that the parties are grappling with is the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in scriptwriting. While the studios have agreed not to deny writers credit or pay if they use AI to assist in writing scripts, there is a difference of opinion on whether AI should be allowed to learn from writers’ scripts. This has emerged as a contentious issue in the ongoing negotiations between the AMPTP and WGA.
Effects of the Prolonged Strike
As the strike continues, the likelihood of salvaging any part of the 2023-24 TV season diminishes. Numerous film releases have already been postponed to 2024, and the Emmys have been rescheduled to January. Additionally, below-the-line workers have faced difficulties and have applied for over $54 million in “hardship withdrawals” from their retirement accounts.
Parallel Strike of SAG-AFTRA
As of now, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has been on strike for 69 days. They are fighting for several demands that are similar to the writers’ demands, such as securing streaming residuals and increasing minimums. Moreover, the actors’ union is also emphasizing the importance of obtaining “informed consent” from actors before using artificial intelligence (AI) to recreate their likeness on screen. This is to ensure that actors have control over how their image is being used and prevent any potential misuse of their likeness in the future.
Potential Record-Breaking Strike
The ongoing strike that began in 2023 has the potential to become the longest in the history of the Writers Guild of America (WGA), surpassing even the two record-holding strikes of the past. The first of these was the 1960 film strike, which lasted for a grueling 148 days, while the second was the 1988 TV strike, which lasted for an even longer 156 days. The 1988 strike, which is considered the longest, lasted for 154 days. If the new contract is ratified on or after October 3, the current strike will surpass the 1988 strike. However, if it is ratified on or after October 5, it will surpass the 1960 TV strike instead.