Will Late-Night TV Go Off the Air in May? Writers Guild Threatens to Pull Plug

WGA promises May 2 strike and halt to “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “Saturday Night Live,” and more

Wait, you mean to say “Saturday Night Live” may not be around this spring to mock the Trump administration’s antics?

The Writers Guild of America has stated its intention to go on strike beginning May 2 if it is unable to reach a new deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The guild sent a letter to media buyers on Tuesday, which was obtained by TheWrap on Wednesday.

The threat of a work stoppage among writers for both big and small screens poses the most immediate threat to late-night TV.

“In the event that we are unable to negotiate a new contract with the AMPTP, a work stoppage will begin May 2,” the guild said in the letter. “Should this occur, writing for television, feature films and digital series will cease.”

It went on: “Late night shows including ‘Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,’ ‘The Daily Show,’ ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live,’ ‘Saturday Night Live,’ ‘Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert’ and others will go off the air.”

Yes, you read that correctly: off the air.

So will it really happen?

The guild, whose current contract expires May 1, had been negotiating a new contract for film and TV writers with the AMPTP, but those talks broke down toward the end of last month. The WGA’s negotiating committee called for a strike authorization vote March 24.

The two sides will reconvene at the negotiating table during the week beginning April 10, but the guild has already made contingency plans in the event that it can’t reach a deal with the producers’ alliance. Los Angeles member meetings are set for April 18 and 19, while a New York meeting will also take place on April 19. An online strike authorization vote will begin April 19 at 8:30 p.m. PT through April 24 at noon PT.

Tuesday’s letter also quantified the guild’s demands, estimating that its proposal would cost the entire industry $178 million a year, with the six largest firms ponying up $117 million of that.

The letter also expressed that in the event of a strike, summer 2017 scripted series could also be affected and that “critically, a work stoppage in May could significantly affect the fall television season.”

Lest we forget, the last writers’ strike started in November 2007 and lasted 100 days. It took the industry months, if not, years to recover and resulted in the loss of 25 percent of primetime scripted programming in ’07 and ’08.