Will television series and movies be in danger with the writers’ on strike?
The deadline for the streaming platforms to make a deal with the Writers Guild of America came to an end at midnight Monday.
Many late shows and series face the threat of an abrupt end, as a strike by thousands of Hollywood television and film writers for higher pay is now in motion.
The last major social movement in Hollywood dates back to the writers’ strike that paralyzed the American audiovisual industry in 2007 and 2008, a 100-day conflict that cost the industry $2 billion.
What happens now that there is a strike?
Major studios and streaming platforms, including Disney and Netflix, have been in talks for weeks with the powerful writers’ union, Writers Guild of America (WGA), but no agreement was reached, and the writers are on strike.
This has led to the immediate interruption of successful television shows, such as late night talk shows, daytime TV, and streaming series and films scheduled for release this year.
The details of the negotiations
The writers want higher pay and a larger share of the profits generated by streaming, while the studios say they have to cut costs due to economic pressures.
“Everyone feels like there’s going to be a strike,” said one Los Angeles-based television writer hours before the deadline, adding that what is at stake is “a deal that will determine how we get paid” for streaming, both now and in the future.
Writers say they struggle to make a living from their craft, with salaries stagnating or even falling due to inflation, while their employers are making profits and increasing executive salaries.
They feel that more people than ever before are working for the minimum wage set by the unions, while TV stations are hiring fewer people to write shorter and shorter series.
The big issues
One of the main disagreements is how writers’ pay is calculated for streaming series, which on platforms like Netflix often remain viewable for years after they are written.
For decades, screenwriters have received “residual rights” for the reuse of their works, for example in television reruns or DVD sales. This is either a percentage of the studio’s revenue from the film or show, or a flat fee paid for each rerun of an episode.
With streaming, authors receive a fixed amount each year, even if their work is a global success, such as the series ‘Bridgerton’ or ‘Stranger Things’, seen by hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide.
The WGA is calling for the revaluation of these amounts, which are currently “far too low in view of the massive international reuse” of these programs. It also wants to discuss the future impact of artificial intelligence on the profession of scriptwriter.