The Writers Guild May Be Going on Strike Again


Dooley John/Newscom

Writers during the last strike that went from 2007-2008.

Preparing for Another Writer’s Strike
Hollywood is facing the possibility of another writer’s strike. The Writers Guild of America’s deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers expires on May 1 and if they cannot come to an agreement, a strike could occur. Since the last writers strike ended in 2008, the landscape of television has changed entirely. Now, streaming services like Netflix and Hulu release hundreds of original series and movies per year. Although more opportunities are available for writers, they miss out for other reasons. Seasons are getting shorter and many shows get canceled after only a few seasons. Netflix often cancels shows after 2 or 3 seasons because the show no longer brings in new subscribers. This causes writers to make less money per show than they used to. Also on streaming services, writers don’t get any revenue from reselling of their shows. Earnings from streaming services could be a main reason for the WGA choosing to go on strike. Both of the previous strikes by the Writers Guild have been over new sources of revenue. In 1988, it was for residuals from TV shows and movies being put on home video and cable and the last strike in 2007, occurred over money from digital distribution of TV shows and movies.
Another possible reason for a strike by the WGA could be over talent agencies. For the past year, the guild has been fighting with talent agencies for not agreeing to their Agency Code of Conduct. The guild wants talent agents to earn a 10% commission from their writing clients instead of taking all the packaging fees for shows. They say that packaging fees give too much money to the talent agencies and cause agents to put their interests above the clients’. Now the WGA is requesting that the AMPTP join them in boycotting these talent agencies. If the Writers Guild and AMPTP don’t come to an agreement on this, it could cause a strike.
The last strike, which lasted about 3 months from early November 2007 to February 2008, had a huge impact on TV and California. Without writers, many TV shows ended their seasons early and would not return for months. At first, late-night shows all went off the air without the staff to write jokes. In total, the state of California lost about $2.1 billion and 37,700 jobs due to the strike, according to a report by the Milken Institute. On the other hand, the strike saw a rise in success for the genre of reality TV. Not needing any writers, reality shows filled primetime spots in the absence of late-night shows. Reality shows became some of the most watched on television during the strike and this trend has continued to today. If a strike occurred again, reality TV could again rise to the top.
This time, during negotiations, production companies may be more willing to compromise due to streaming services. Disney recently released Disney+ and NBC and AT&T are both releasing new streaming services soon. These companies will want to avoid a strike to be able to compete with others, especially Netflix who already has an advantage in the case of a strike. Since Netflix is not a member of the union representing most major production companies like Disney, CBS, FOX, and NBC, it can negotiate a separate deal with the guild. Also the company has already created a deal with, SAG-AFTRA, which represents actors, giving it an edge if a strike occurs. This will allow them to still film new shows that they have the script written for. Hopefully the WGA and AMPTP will be open to negotiating in order to avoid the negative impacts of another strike.