Updated May 2, 2023 - Economy

Hollywood writers go on strike

A WGA member during the writers' strike in 2007-08. Photo: Stan Honda/AFP via Getty Images

The Writers Guild of America is on strike for the first time in 15 years after negotiations for a labor deal with Hollywood studios broke down ahead of the current deal's expiration on Monday.

Why it matters: A work stoppage threatens to cripple Hollywood's already-messy transition to the streaming era.

Details: The strike began Tuesday morning, and writers will start picketing outside studios and media companies' offices later on Tuesday.

  • During the strike, all WGA members are barred from performing writing duties for any of the struck companies, though they may perform other work like producing or directing.
  • Given the time of year, most broadcast shows will be in-between seasons. But a strike going deep into the summer would lead to delays for the 2023-24 season.
  • Late-night shows such as NBC's "The Tonight Show" and CBS' "The Late Show" will immediately go dark. Daytime soap operas are expected to halt production as well.
  • Streaming services and film studios are less affected initially because they produce their content well in advance.

The big picture: The streaming era has upended traditional Hollywood business practices, and writers feel they've been left out of the "peak TV" content boom.

  • Streaming services that have dominated the TV landscape are ordering fewer episodes per season and ending shows earlier than their broadcast and cable TV forefathers. Additionally, residuals for streaming shows are far less than what writers would get from TV syndication deals.
  • The rapid growth of AI is causing concern among writers that studios will look to replace some of their work with machines.
  • "The companies' behavior has created a gig economy inside a union workforce, and their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing," the WGA said in a statement Monday night.

The other side: The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the major studios and production companies, argued that its latest proposal included "generous increases in compensation" and increases in streaming residuals — and added that it was prepared to improve that offer.

  • "The AMPTP member companies remain united in their desire to reach a deal that is mutually beneficial to writers and the health and longevity of the industry, and to avoid hardship to the thousands of employees who depend upon the industry for their livelihoods," the AMPTP said in its own statement.

Of note: The strike comes ahead of upfront presentations to advertisers for many of the top media companies like Comcast, Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery.

Flashback: The last WGA strike came in 2007-08 and lasted for 100 days.

What's next: This is just the beginning: The studios' labor contracts with the Directors Guild of America (DGA) and SAG-AFTRA, which represents the actors, both expire at the end of June.

  • Both the DGA and SAG-AFTRA have voiced support for the WGA, but will continue working during the WGA strike.
  • The DGA will begin negotiations on May 10, while SAG-AFTRA is slated to start its talks in early June.

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