Tensions are reportedly coming to a boiling point in negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
The Hollywood Reporter writes that a strike beginning next month has been proposed by WGA representatives, who issued a letter to media buyers saying, “In the event that we are unable to negotiate a new contract with the AMPTP, a work stoppage will begin May 2nd. Should this occur, writing for television, feature films and digital series will cease.” (Disclosure: the Gizmodo Media Group Union belongs to Writers Guild of America-East in its digital incarnation, which is unrelated to the division considering a strike.)
Negotiations are scheduled to begin Monday, with an online strike authorization vote commencing on April 18. THR shared the financial demands of the WGA:
“We estimate that our current proposals would cost a total of $178 million over the entire industry,” the letter states. “The combined cost to the six largest firms is $117 million.”
It then breaks down the estimate as follows: CBS $16.0 million; Disney $21.20 million; Fox $25.45 million; NBC $17.90 million; Sony $12.80 million; Time Warner $27.40 million; Viacom $9.79 million; other producers $47.74 million; and total $178.28 million. The breakdown says, and the guild confirmed, that these are annual costs.
The number of scripted series is listed as 455, which is double what it was six years ago, according to THR. But the number of episodes hasn’t significantly increased, as prestige series are generally shorter than traditional network seasons. That means writers make about the same, and are often put on hold for long periods of time as networks decide to pick up or drop a series. Writers are compensated for their time on hold, but to a lesser degree than when they’re working. There are also more writers now, but the demand hasn’t grown commensurately, which also lowers wage growth.
Where viewers and fans are concerned, a strike may not affect scripted shows, as writing is usually slow in May. Late-night shows would likely be hobbled, but during the strike in 2007, most hosts muddled through their episodes. Summer series could be delayed, and if an agreement is not made, the fall cycle as well.