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Hollywood productions are expected to be delayed as writers continue their strike after negotiations broke down


The film and television writers’ strike, which began on Tuesday, may be just the beginning of a long summer of labor unrest in Hollywood.

Negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and the Motion Picture and Television Producers Alliance, a trade association representing entertainment companies such as Walt Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery, collapsed Monday night.

But other entertainment industry negotiations are closing in, raising the potential for production delays and increasing pressure on TV and movie studios to reach working agreements.

The separate unions representing actors, SAG-Aftra, and directors, the Directors Guild of America, are expected to begin negotiating new contracts for their members with the same motion picture alliance in the coming weeks. Like writers, directors and actors put creator compensation in the age of streaming video at the center of their conversations.

Studios are considering negotiating agreements with those other unions before returning to the book, believing that dealing with actors and directors would be easier, according to a person familiar with the studio alliance’s thinking. This strategy could push any resolution of Hollywood’s labor woes into August, though, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private.

The creators of some of the most popular shows on television began walking picket lines on Tuesday afternoons, looking for higher salaries, and said the shift to streaming is the dominant source of watching entertainment. Hundreds demonstrated in front of a Netflix office in Los Angeles, some holding signs and chanting, “Hey, hey, corporate greed has got to go.” One of the signs read: “Don’t you want to know how The Last of Us ends?”

Evening comedy shows were the biggest casualty of the hit. NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night With Seth Meyers has stopped producing new programming, as the network plans to rebroadcast programming in its place. Fans also won’t be able to catch new episodes of Real Time with Bill Maher and John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, which airs on Warner Bros. Pictures. HBO.

The writers say their salaries have fallen over the past decade, with members affected by changes in business, including shorter seasons for shows on streaming services. The union seeks at least a 5 percent increase in base salary, commitments to at least 13 weeks of work, and at least six writers per show.

They also want additional compensation for shows on streaming services that turn out to be hits, something they say the studios have refused. The studios said their proposal to increase the bottom line and payments for the residual earnings stream was “generous”.

TV viewers have moved to streaming services and are watching fewer regularly scheduled shows on broadcast and cable. In a sign of how quickly the television business is changing, Fox canceled Monday 9-1-1, one of its most-watched shows, due to the cost of producing the show. Disney, which owns the show, will run the seventh season on its own ABC network instead.

The previous writers’ strike, in 2007, lasted 100 days and cost the Los Angeles economy an estimated $2.5 billion (roughly Rs. 20,500 crore) in lost output. This strike, which is on a national scale, could cripple the economies of countries like New York and Georgia, which are also centers of film and television production.

Agents in recent days have scrambled to sign last-minute deals with writers before being banned from doing so. Clients have asked attorneys who work in entertainment-related acquisitions to include financial facilities in the event of an extended strike.

Other Hollywood unions are taking a cautious approach to the writers’ strike so far. SAG-Aftra, which represents more than 160,000 actors, said that while it supports the writers, it will not join them in a layoff. The union, which has its own contract with the studios, said that the actors must appear on set. They are allowed to march in lines to picket writers in solidarity, but only when they are not supposed to be working.

The actors begin negotiating on June 7, for a new contract to replace one that expires at the end of that month. The Directors Guild said it will begin negotiations with the studios on May 10.

© 2023 Bloomberg LP

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Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.