Hollywood braces for long, contentious summer as writers strike

THE FILM and TV writers strike, which began Tuesday, could be just the start of a long summer of labor troubles in Hollywood.

Negotiations between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, a trade association that represents entertainment companies such as Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. Discovery Inc., broke down Monday night.

But other entertainment-industry negotiations are right around the corner, increasing the likelihood of production delays and adding to pressure on TV and film studios to work out labor agreements.

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 coming weeks. Like the writers, the directors and actors are putting compensation for creators in the streaming-video era at the center of their talks.

The studios are considering negotiating agreements with those other unions before returning to the writers, believing the actors and directors will be easier to deal with, according to a person familiar with the studio alliance’s thinking. That strategy could push any resolution of Hollywood’s labor woes into August, however, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private.

Writers for some of the most popular shows on television began walking picket lines Tuesday afternoon, seeking higher pay and saying they’ve been shortchanged by the shift to streaming as the dominant source of entertainment viewing. Hundreds turned out in front of one of Netflix, Inc.’s offices in Los Angeles, some carrying signs and chanting, “Hey ho, hey ho, corporate greed has got to go.” One sign read: “Don’t you want to know how The Last of Us ends?”

The most immediate casualty of the strike has been the evening comedy shows. NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Meyers have stopped producing new programs, with the network planning to air reruns in their place. Fans also won’t get to see new episodes of Real Time with Bill Maher and John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, which air on Warner Bros.’ HBO.

The writers say their pay has fallen over the last decade, with members buffeted by changes in the business, including shorter seasons for shows on streaming services. The guild is seeking at least a 5% increase in basic pay, commitments for at least 13 weeks of work, and a minimum of six writers per show.

They also want additional compensation for programs on streaming services that turn out to be hits, something they say the studios rejected. The studios said their proposal for increased minimums and payments for streaming residual earnings has been “generous.”

TV viewers have migrated to streaming services and are watching fewer regularly scheduled shows on broadcast and cable. In a sign of how rapidly the TV business is changing, Fox on Monday canceled 9-1-1, one of its most watched programs, because of the cost to produce the show. Disney, which owns the program, will run a 7th season on its ABC network instead.

The previous writers strike, in 2007, lasted 100 days, and cost the Los Angeles economy an estimated $2.5 billion in lost output. This strike, which is national in scope, could crimp the economies of states such as New York and Georgia, which are also hubs for film and TV production.

In recent days agents scrambled to sign last-minute deals with writers before they were forbidden from doing so. Lawyers working on entertainment-related acquisitions were asked by clients to include financial accommodations 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 over 160,000 actors, said that while it supports the writers, it won’t be joining them in a work stoppage. The union, which has its own contract with the studios, said actors should still show up on set. They’re allowed to walk picket lines with writers in solidarity, but only when they’re not supposed to be working.

The actors begin negotiating June 7, for a new contract to replace one that expires at the end of that month. The Directors Guild said it will begin its negotiations with the studios on May 10. Among other issues, the directors want greater payments from streaming services with subscribers globally. — Bloomberg

How will TV shows be affected by the Hollywood writers strike?

LOS ANGELES — Thousands of Hollywood film and television writers went on strike starting Tuesday, an action that disrupts TV production. How will the walkout by the Writers Guild of America’s affect viewers’ favorite TV shows and movies?

Which shows will feel the first impact of the strike?

Late-night talk shows such as Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon went dark immediately and are now airing re-runs. New installments will not be available on traditional networks, nor on streaming services such as Hulu and Peacock that make the shows available the following day.

Next to be disrupted could be daytime soap operas since they are traditionally written not long before they are filmed.

Primetime comedies and dramas currently on air should be able to wrap up seasons uninterrupted — their episodes for the coming weeks will have already been written and filmed.

What could happen if a strike drags on?

A protracted strike could delay the start of the fall television season, when networks debut new scripted shows and fresh seasons of their hits. Writing for the fall season typically starts in May or June.

What about streaming services?

Netflix, which makes shows around the world, has said it can feed its service with shows produced outside the United States. But its US-based series would be affected if a strike drags on.

HBO Max, which is switching its name to Max in late May, has been saving up programming to release with its re-branding.

Which shows are safe from the strike?

News programs will continue as normal because their writers are covered by a different union. The same is true for unscripted reality shows such as Big Brother and The Bachelor.

What about movies?

The flow of films to theaters will not take an immediate hit because movies take two to three years to produce, studios have a pipeline of films already written and shot. It would take an extended strike to interrupt movie release schedules. — Reuters