As David Zaslav and his Warner Bros. Discovery team touted the upcoming launch of their rebranded Max streaming service, the CEO says that his company is hoping for the best but prepared for the worst as a potential writers strike in Hollywood looms ever closer.
“Everybody needs to feel fully valued from start to finish. I think our objective, that everybody gets fairly compensated for the work that they do,” Zaslav said at a press conference Wednesday on the Warner Bros. lot. “We’re optimistic that we can get through this in a way that’s fair to all parties involved.”
But if the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers — which represents Warner and other major studios — can’t reach a tentative agreement by the May 1 deadline, Zaslav says that next month’s launch of Max will go forward as planned.
“We have a lot of content that’s been produced. We are launching a product on May 23, so we are ready to go guns blazing in terms of our product and our platforms around the world,” he said.
In years where Hollywood labor renegotiates their collective bargaining agreements, it is customary for studios to have a contingency plan in the event of a strike. In recent weeks, studios have moved up the deadlines for scripts to be turned in while productions that can be wrapped before the end of April have been rushed to completion, according to insiders who have spoken to TheWrap.
The stockpile of scripts and projects either fully completed or in postproduction will give studios several months of material to ride out a work stoppage, though writers would not be present to provide consultation on their work or to rewrite it in the case of production issues that make it difficult or impossible to shoot a TV show or film as written.
Meanwhile, the WGA opened voting on Tuesday for its members on whether to give guild leaders the authorization to order a strike if a deal is not reached at the deadline. The vote, which will take place through April 17, is expected to be overwhelmingly in favor of strike authorization as years of organizing within the guild has created a united labor front demanding better pay and a restoration of the system that allowed writers to work their way up to become producers and showunners that the WGA argues has been taken away by the recent pivot to streaming.
“Over the past decade, while our employers have increased their profits by tens of billions, they have embraced business practices that have slashed our compensation and residuals and undermined our working conditions,” the WGA said in a memo sent to members this week and obtained by TheWrap. “The survival of writing as a profession is at stake in this negotiation.”
The WGA and AMPTP are set to resume negotiations next week after the strike authorization vote is completed.
“We’re negotiating with people that we highly respect,” Zaslav said. “We all play an important role in creating great stories, andd so we’re optimistic and we’re hopeful. But we’re going to be ready if it happens.”