- Hollywood writers have voted to strike after their contract expired at midnight on Monday.
- Writers have argued that streaming models have undercut pay and weakened job stability.
- Topical shows relying on actively scripted material, including late night, will be the most immediately affected.
Hollywood writers have voted to strike after failing to reach a deal with the streamers and studios by the time their contract expired at midnight Tuesday.
“The decision was made following six weeks of negotiations with Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Discovery-Warner, NBC Universal, Paramount and Sony under the umbrella of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP),” the WGA said in a statement. “The WGA Negotiating Committee began this process intent on making a fair deal, but the studios’ responses have been wholly insufficient given the existential crisis writers are facing.”
“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 statement continued.
Earlier Monday night, the AMPTP said in a statement that negotiations “concluded without an agreement.”
WGA picketing will begin Tuesday afternoon. The guild had sent an email to members Sunday night preparing them for the possibility of picketing and surveying them on preferred locations and times, according to reports.
The strike — which was authorized by nearly 98% of Writers Guild of America members who voted last month — will most immediately impact shows that rely on active writers’ rooms working on current material, including “Saturday Night Live” and late night shows.
Some of those shows could return after a hiatus — weeks after the WGA previously went on strike in late 2007, some late night hosts including Jay Leno resumed their shows with a more bare-bones staff before the strike ended in February 2008.
Popular broadcast network shows that have been renewed for the fall, including ABC’s “Abbott Elementary,” CBS’s “NCIS,” and NBC’s “La Brea,” are also expected to be impacted in the nearer term, as audiences for those shows expect new seasons to return come fall.
Such productions could opt to launch new seasons with episodes that have already been fully shot, hoping that a deal with writers can be reached with enough time to produce later episodes that are still in progress, according to Michael Pachter, managing director at Wedbush Securities.
“Broadcast TV hurts the most, and the most frequent TV productions, like daily shows, hurt the most,” Pachter told Insider.
Films with completed scripts can likely proceed, but those that need rewriting during the production process could be impacted.
A strike may drive another moment for reality shows
In the meantime, cable and linear TV networks and streamers may lean on reality TV and international shows if a strike drags on. Those categories aren’t covered by the WGA, and studios and streamers will need fresh entertainment to keep viewers coming back. One top agent told Insider that buyers have been preparing for a strike by ordering more seasons of reality shows that are already doing well.
Some categories of reality are hotter than others. Social experiment series like “The Traitors,” docusoaps like “The Kardashians,” and game-themed shows like “Lingo” are in demand right now, while demand for dating and performance-based shows has been flat, the agent said.
Streaming services and their audiences are also less likely to feel a palpable impact, as they’re less dependent on strict schedules of programming and show delivery, Pachter said.
Writers who have worked on shows like “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “House of Cards,” and “Yellowjackets” have described a range of issues they’re hoping to address in a new contract with the AMPTP, the organization that represents the major Hollywood studios and streamers. For instance, in a short video posted on the WGA site, the comedy writer Van Robichaux said he’d experienced delays getting paid while scripts were in progress — a process that he said could be held up by requests for more edits.
Representatives for the AMPTP did not respond to Insider’s requests for comment Monday afternoon.
The moment may be an opportunity for reality TV producers as well as non-union productions. But shows that work with WGA writers generally can’t circumvent striking writers to hire non-union writers, according to Deborah Hrbek, managing partner at the law firm HRBEKKunstler, who represents writers in the TV and film industry as well as those who write for digital streaming platforms.
“‘The Tonight Show’ couldn’t just hire non-union writers to cross the picket line,” said Hrbek, who represents both union and non-union writers.
Some celebrities on shows likely to be impacted have addressed the possibility of the impending strike on the late night circuit.
“That show, it’s hard,” former “SNL” star Pete Davidson said on the “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” where he recently appeared to promote the May 6 episode of “SNL” which he’s slated to host. Davidson acknowledged a writer’s strike might mean his “SNL” episode doesn’t happen as planned and said he gained a new perspective working on the production as a prospective host.
“I had a weird little gig there because I would just do my thing once in a while, and they would let me do whatever,” Davidson said of his time as a cast member on the show, where he was known for starring in digital shorts. Rehearsing as a host, he said, “I was like, this show — you guys work really hard!”
Fallon interjected at one point in the conversation to acknowledge the strike, saying, “Please, take care of the writers!”