Hollywood writers strike after failed contract negotiations

Thousands of Hollywood TV and movie writers are taking to the picket line as the Writers Guild of America announced a strike – the first in 15 years - effective Tuesday after negotiations with studios reached an impasse.

According the Associated Press, some 11,500 film and TV writers are represented by the Writers Guild of America, which has both East and West Coast labor union divisions covering writers in movies, TV, cable, digital media and broadcast news. The strike comes after failing to reach a contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which included six weeks of negotiations with represented companies including Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, NBCUniversal, Paramount and Sony.

According to the WGA “the studios’ responses have been wholly insufficient given the existential crisis writers are facing.”

In announcing the strike, which sets picketing to begin May 2, the Writers Guild cited several complaints and accused the studios of devaluing the writing profession.

“The companies' behavior has created a gig economy inside a union workforce, and their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing,” stated the WGA. “From their refusal to guarantee any level of weekly employment in episodic television, to the creation of a ‘day rate’ in comedy variety, to their stonewalling on free work for screenwriters and on AI for all writers, they have closed the door on their labor force and opened the door to writing as an entirely freelance profession.”

The WGA added that “No such deal could ever be contemplated by this membership.”

As for the AMPTP, the organization said it offered a “comprehensive package proposal” to WGA Sunday night “which included generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals.”

It went on to say that it indicated to the Guild that AMPTP was prepared to improve upon that offer, but didn’t do so because of “the magnitude of other proposals” that WGA continues to insist on. According to AMPTP, the main points of contention are mandatory staffing and duration of employment requirements – which it said are Guild proposals “that would require a company to staff a show with a certain number of writers for a specified period of time, whether needed or not.”

Still, the organization said it remains willing to hold discussions with WGA to reach a resolution.

“The AMPTP member companies remain united in their desire to reach a deal that is mutually beneficial to writers and the health and longevity of the industry, and to avoid hardship to the thousands of employees who depend upon the industry for their livelihoods,” AMPTP stated.

As Hollywood clashes over compensation and benefits for writers in an age of streaming proliferation and declining traditional TV viewership, some content will feel immediate impacts from the strike. As reported by NBC News, late-night talk shows will go dark this week, while in other cases producers of scripted series could have to cut seasons short or delay filming.

From an advertiser perspective, Tony Marlow, CMO of LG Ad Solutions, weighed in, saying he suspects a strike could result in a genre-shift, with viewership moving towards non-scripted programming such as sports and reality TV, with advertisers following suit and adjusting their ad mix accordingly.

“This TV genre-shift could also lead to a reshuffling of ad placements into existing scripted content in addition to the increased investments against non-scripted genres,” Marlow said in emailed comments. “Advertisers will continue to prioritize connecting with their target audiences even if a strike changes where they find them in TV environments.”