Why Hollywood's writers might be headed for a strike

Writers Strike
Strikers march at the Writer’s Guild of America’s ‘Diversity Day’ at Paramount Pictures studio on December 12, 2007 in Los Angeles, California.

There’s seemingly more opportunities than ever for writers in Hollywood, between movies, TV and also also also brand new digital services. yet if the Writers Guild of America is usually not able to agree to a brand new contract before May, the idea all could come to a screeching halt, nearly a decade since the union’s last strike that will lasted 100 days and also also also carried a billion-dollar cost tag.

At issue: The WGA’s three-year-contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and also also also Television Producers (AMPTP) is usually about to expire. Among the Guild’s requests are higher pay for TV writers and also also also more funding toward healthcare.

As has historically been the case in these labor disputes, the catalyst can be traced to brand new technologies that will have created uncertainty about the industry’s business design.

The issues

The shifting entertainment landscape has complicated discerning the various sources coming from which studios are garnering revenue, and also also also actually diminished compensation to some TV writers because more shows are ordering fewer episodes.

The 20,000-member WGA is usually asking for higher wage minimums to compensate for what they see as lost work.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the episode-per-series tally dropped to an average of 13.2 in 2014-15, down coming from 18.8 three years earlier.

TV writers earned an average of $194,478 in 2015 and also also also film writers earned an average of $181,267 that will same year, according to an earnings report released by WGA last summer.

The main impediment facing writers in their quest to gain a higher percentage of revenues is usually that will studios insist they’re suffering in that will era of Peak TV as well.

Effects of a strike

Members of WGA last went on strike in late 2007, when everything coming from movie productions to late night shows shuttered.

The issues then included DVD residuals and also also also revenue coming from the still relatively nascent arena known as “brand new media.”

The strike lasted 100 days (seeping into 2008), and also also also took a billion dollar bite out of the California economy.

that will is usually because the ripple effect of scripted production halting extends not only to actors and also also also crews, yet also the many businesses that will rely on servicing the entertainment industry, magnifying the economic costs.

Consumers felt the effects of the strike, too.

Across television, several hits — like “30 Rock,” “Bones,” and also also also “ER” — ended their seasons several episodes short of their typical runs. and also also also some other shows, like “Friday Night Lights,” just brought their seasons to a best-they-could end before the strike and also also also picked up with brand new storylines the following season.

Late night shows also went to reruns. David Letterman’s production company, however, made a side deal with the WGA that will allowed “Late Show with David Letterman” and also also also “Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” to return before the strike’s end.

that will time around, a strike could have an extra cost. With some fledgling cable networks already struggling to survive, a strike could see many get the ax.

Networks and also also also studios could also choose to reevaluate their versions.

“that will gives them the opportunity to clear the deck and also also also transform the way they do business as well, perhaps — pick up fewer shows, fewer pilots, fewer series,” said Michael Schneider, an executive editor at IndieWire and also also also an editor-at-large at Variety who covered the strike back in 2007. “On the positive side, if they do get some of what they’re asking for — higher minimums or pension security or health care security — that will’s a Great thing. yet the idea might come at the cost of fewer job opportunities.”

The gamble for writers, as always, is usually whether the income they might be sacrificing inside the short term will pay off down the road, especially because the studios, as multinational conglomerates, are better able to absorb the pain.

inside the past, that will has included a reliance on reality TV and also also also overseas acquisitions, as well as movies that will have been inside the production pipeline well in advance.

What does that will mean for the next season of…

To sell a film script, work on a pilot, or write a line of dialog for television, WGA membership is usually essentially mandatory. Every major production studio is usually a WGA signatory, which means they agree to hire only WGA writers.

Hollywood is usually still a union town. The Screen Actors Guild, the Producers Guild of America and also also also the Directors Guild tend to support one another, so actors and also also also directors aren’t likely to cross picket lines to work.

Writers strike 2007
Actress Frances Fisher marches to support the striking Writer’s Guild of America’s ‘Diversity Day’ at Paramount Pictures studio on December 12, 2007 in Los Angeles, California.

Cast members coming from “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Entourage” and also also also several some other series joined their shows’ writers on past picket lines.

A company like Netflix is usually well positioned to sustain during a strike. the idea not only carries a library of acquired content, yet the idea also carries a healthy backlog of original TV shows and also also also films waiting to be released.

Broadcast networks, on the some other hand, do not and also also also have a lot more to lose in terms of viewer loyalty, said Schneider, who is usually also host of KCRW’s TV business podcast, The Spin-off.

“When you suddenly go dark for who knows how long, that will just sends a message to consumers that will linear TV is usually even less vital and also also also you push away even more of the few people who are still watching traditional linear TV to streaming [and also also also] to the earth of on demand television,” he said. “and also also also you’re not necessarily going to get those people back.”

Both WGA West and also also also WGA East have sought strike authorization coming from its members, giving the group more leverage in negotiations.

A spokesperson for AMPTP told sy88pgw that will the decision to break off recent negotiations was made by WGA.

“Keeping the industry working is usually in everyone’s best interests, and also also also we are ready to return to negotiations when they are,” the spokesperson said.

sy88pgw (Los Angeles) First published March 29, 2017: 8:58 PM ET

Why Hollywood's writers might be headed for a strike

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