Thousands of unionized writers in Hollywood went on strike early Tuesday, effectively halting television production. High-stakes talks between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) failed to avert the first walkout in over 15 years. The writers’ union claims that in the streaming era, they are not being paid fairly and that the companies’ actions have created a gig economy within a union workforce. Members of the WGA want pay raises and structural changes to a business model that they say is making it increasingly difficult to make a living.
According to the WGA, the companies have used the transition to streaming to reduce writer pay and separate writing from production, thereby worsening working conditions for series writers at all levels. The writers’ union is especially frustrated because streaming-era shows have fewer episodes than their broadcast counterparts, making it difficult to maintain a consistent income. Furthermore, residual fees have all but vanished as more content is exclusively hosted on streaming platforms. The writers are demanding more money in order to make a living doing what they enjoy.
The AMPTP represents major film studios like Disney, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros., as well as top broadcast television networks like ABC, CBS, and NBC, and leading streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon. The work stoppage effectively halts production on broadcast programs, streaming shows, and possibly some films, upending the entertainment industry. This week, late-night talk shows will go dark, and scripted drama and comedy series may be forced to cut their seasons short or postpone filming entirely.
The WGA’s demands for this negotiation cycle include regulations for the use of material created with artificial intelligence or similar technologies, highlighting the changes that the entertainment industry is dealing with in the midst of intense economic and technological upheaval. The previous strike clogged Hollywood’s content production pipeline and lasted 100 days, and the industry is hoping to avoid a similar disruption this time.
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