It has now been a week since the Writers Guild of America sent out a memo to members providing their account of the tense meeting its negotiating committee had with several top studio CEOs, and insiders say that some of those CEOs and other studio executives are meeting to discuss their next move as progress on a deal has been brought to a standstill.
Insiders for the studios say that Hollywood’s executives have spent the last week unsure of where talks go from this point, saying that share a reluctance to “negotiate against themselves” in any further discussions.
The two sides remain significantly far apart even as the latest AMPTP proposal, which was offered on Aug. 11 and made public in a move slammed by WGA members last Tuesday, showed some movement on key fronts.
In its memo to members, the WGA said that the latest counterproposal was “neither nothing, nor nearly enough,” and that it remains steadfast in fighting for a deal that ensures that all of its key concerns, from AI protections to securing the future of the writers room, are addressed.
“Our demands come directly from the membership itself. They address the existential threats to the profession of writing and to our individual careers, all caused by changes to the business model implemented by the companies in the last seven to ten years,” the guild wrote.
The WGA also said in its memo that it is awaiting a response to the counteroffer it made to the AMPTP’s Aug. 11 proposal, which it says was discussed further during talks on Aug. 16 and 17. An insider with knowledge of the talks said that much of the discussion on those days was based around artificial intelligence regulations.
But talks on other fronts, such as the writers room and transparency on streaming data, remained slow. This led to the meeting on Aug. 22 in which several CEOs, including Disney’s Bob Iger and Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav, urged the writers to accept the AMPTP’s Aug. 11 offer. When the WGA held firm, they informed the guild that it would publicly release their offer to present it directly to the guild’s members.
But that attempt to influence the WGA rank-and-file has backfired, as members have slammed the AMPTP’s public release of their proposal as a break in good faith with the WGA negotiators. Writers who have spoken to TheWrap this past week also say that they were frustrated by the additional context provided by the guild in last Thursday’s memo about why negotiators feel the offer doesn’t go far enough.
Of the various points raised by the guild in their memo, the one writers pointed to the most was the offer made by the AMPTP to provide quarterly reports on streaming viewership data so that, as the studios said last week that such data “will enable the WGA to develop proposals to restructure the current SVOD residual regime in the future,” though that data cannot be divulged to WGA members who work on streaming shows and movies.
“One of the reasons why this strike is happening is because streaming pay has been too low for so long, and they’re offering us something for the sake of future contract talks?” said one retired writer who asked to remain anonymous. “This is just kicking the can down the road. I don’t know why they thought the writers would think this is satisfactory.”
In the meantime, there is increasing nervousness on the studio side about the damage that the strike will inflict on the entertainment industry if writers and actors remain on the picket lines well into the fall. Films such as Sony’s “Kraven the Hunter” and Warner Bros.’ “Dune: Part Two” have moved out of the fall 2023 release slate in the hopes that the SAG-AFTRA strike will be resolved in 2024, enabling the casts of those films to do promotional work.
Earlier this month, TV insiders told TheWrap that there was hope that the WGA contract could be resolved by Labor Day weekend — or end of September at the latest — with the hopes of salvaging some of the network TV season. But with those hopes quickly dwindling, broadcast TV is facing a tight squeeze for new programming and advertising revenue this fall, not to mention the likelihood that a lack of new programming will accelerate the decline of linear TV among consumers.
But the WGA is holding firm in calling for a contract that secures a future for writers safe from trends that it believes, were they to continue, would turn writing into a financial unsustainable gig economy.
“We stressed [to the studio CEOs] that we could not and would not pick and choose among those threats; that we have not struck for nearly four months to half-save ourselves, nor are we leaving any sector of this Guild unprotected when we return to work,” the guild said Thursday.