The Writers Guild of America resumed negotiations with major studios on Wednesday, with a 142-day writers’ strike ending in record time.
In a break from previous sessions, several senior executives joined the talks Wednesday in Sherman Oaks. These were Disney’s Bob Iger, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley, and Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav.
Previously, CEOs generally left bargaining to professional negotiators in the alliance of motion picture and television producers.
But as the strike continued, they became more involved on a personal level. On August 22, the CEOs met with WGA leaders in what the book described as a “lecture.”
In the month since then, each side has said it was waiting for the other to issue a response to its latest proposal. At one point, the WGA suggested that the AMPTP was too inflexible to adequately meet the requirements of the book, and might have to be dismantled.
Studios expressed frustration at being forced to “negotiate against ourselves,” while the WGA said the studios had not yet fully addressed the union’s agenda.
The WGA is looking for a residual formula based on the number of views each show gets on the streaming platform. The studios declined to do so, though they agreed to share some viewership data with the guild.
The guild is also seeking a mandatory minimum staffing level for every TV writer’s room. AMPTP responded with a proposal to allow presenters to hire at least two writers per presentation.
AMPTP is also offering a 15% first-year increase in minimum rates for writers and producers, which will include a new minimum of 10% higher story editor rates. The WGA sought a 20% higher level than the story editor rate.
Studios have already accepted the WGA’s proposal to ensure that if writers use AI to help write their scripts, they won’t lose credit or payment. However, both sides commented on the guild’s demand that AI not be allowed to train on book texts.
The longer the strike lasts, the less likely it is that the networks will be able to salvage any portion of the 2023-24 TV season. Several film releases have already been pushed back to 2024, and the Emmys have also been pushed back to January.
The strike also affected below-the-line workers, who have applied for more than $54 million in “hardship withdrawals” from their retirement accounts.
SAG-AFTRA also remained on strike for 69 days. The Actors Union focuses on many of the same issues as the book, including residual broadcasting and increasing the minimum. The Actors Guild is also focusing on ensuring actors’ “informed consent” to use artificial intelligence to recreate their images.
The two longest strikes in WGA history were in 1960 and 1988. The first strike was settled in two stages – first with the film companies, then with the television companies. The film strike lasted 148 days (including the date of ratification of the new contract). The television strike lasted 156 days.
The 1988 strike, the longest in the union’s history, lasted 154 days, including the date of ratification.
The 2023 strike would exceed the 1988 strike if ratification occurs on or after October 3. The television strike will surpass 1960 if the new contract is ratified on or after October 5.
Matt Donnelly and Cynthia Littleton contributed to this story.
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