It took coming back to the table for four consecutive days but the strike could be near its end as the WGA reviews the latest AMPTP offer.
Update: Both the WGA and AMPTP will be meeting again on Sunday. Yom Kippur begins at 6:30 PM PT in Sherman Oaks, California, where the AMPTP offices are located.
Should the WGA not respond on Sunday, the earliest we’ll hear anything is on Tuesday. If this is the end of the WGA strike, it could not have come at a better time. October 1st is more or less the latest writers could resume working and salvage the remainder of the 2023-24 broadcast network TV season. Should the WGA strike be at its end in the next week, the AMPTP would have to reach an agreement with SAG-AFTRA before Hollywood can truly get back to work. With little to direct, the DGA is facing a de facto strike of their own.
Going into this past week, the main hold-ups between the guild and studios were generative AI, streaming residuals, the size of writers’ rooms, and minimum length of employment during the year. While AI only came into major focus this year, the latter have been a serious problem since streaming services really began to dominate viewing habits during the pandemic. While there are some series where the showrunner is the only writer, the guild is asking for at least two staff writers for the entire season. It’s harder to make a living as a writer when there are shorter seasons on streaming. Comedy series especially benefit from having more writers on set. Ask Chris Miller, Phil Lord, and Anthony King about how on-set writing improved The Afterparty. This is on top of actors who are improvising on set!
Current reports suggest that the streaming residual will be based on its success. The formula will draw from the percentage of the subscriber base who are tuning into programming. I do not know at the moment if this is just for licensed programming or if it also includes originals produced for the streaming service. Regardless, it is not a good look for any streaming service when they decide to remove their own originals for a tax write-off. After this past year, one can only wonder what was said about that during negotiations.
With Yom Kippur starting on Sunday evening and lasting through Monday evening, the Jewish high holiday became an unofficial deadline. Word has it that today’s meeting between the WGA and the AMPTP is mostly about writing down the fine print. However, this also depends on which outlet you are reading. Penske Media, which is an AMPTP signatory company, has a monopoly on the Hollywood trade outlets and outlets could have different language in their reporting. It took involvement of four studio CEOs to get negotiations nearer to the light at the end of the tunnel: Bob Iger (Disney), David Zaslav (Warner Bros. Discovery), Donna Langley (Universal), and Ted Sarandos (Netflix). Three of the CEOs represent the legacy studios.
Obviously, there will need to be an announcement and a vote on a new three-year contract. Writers will not be getting back to work until then. There is also the question of whether WGA members will honor the SAG-AFTRA picket line. It’s always possible that they can avoid pickets by holding meetings over Zoom. Who knows. What is important is that writers are able to make a living. The increases in inflation can also make it very hard to live as a writer in Los Angeles or New York.
After the WGA ends its strike with the studios, the AMPTP will have to resume negotiations with SAG-AFTRA. Time will tell if there be any CEO involvement during their negotiations. There’s no doubt that the strikes are having an impact at the box office. In taking away talk show and other press and promotional appearances, it’s had a devastating impact on the box office. We’ve been looking at some of the worst box office weekends of the year. Yes, the Taylor Swift concert film will help the box office and theaters. However, she is just one person. When films perform well, it could mean bonuses for reaching a certain number at the box office.
Awards season is kicking into full gear. Studios will want to have as many of their talent in front of voters. Directors, producers, and below the line crew might not be enough to get people out of the house. It really depends on the situation.