Producers Close to Offer to Avoid Hollywood Writers’ Strike

Contract talks between AMPTP and the Writers Guild will resume Sunday

Ahead of contract negotiations set to resume Sunday and Monday, The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers is meeting today to put together a formal offer to the Writers Guild of America, TheWrap has learned.

An individual with knowledge of the situation tells TheWrap that AMPTP is working to have an offer ready when talks resume Sunday.

AMPTP did not respond to a request for comment.

The meeting comes as both sides appear determined to avoid a writers’ strike like the 2007-08 walkout that shut down most film and television production for 100 days. The AMPTP and the WGA were nearing a possible deal on Friday to address key issues, including a health plan for writers, as well as the “span” issue and the option of exclusivity.

“Span” is shorthand for the amount of time writers work versus how much they’re paid. A key point of contention for writers is they say their work on shows with short episode orders often takes as much time as longer productions, but they receive less money because they’re paid per-episode. The WGA is seeking higher compensation on shows where the work schedule for writers runs more than two weeks per episode.

While the WGA remains in a media blackout and could not be reached for comment, in an update to its official blog on Friday the guild said that “our current proposals would cost a total of $156 million annually over the entire industry. For the six largest companies, who collectively reported almost $51 billion in operating profits in 2016, the cost is only $103 million.”

That’s a drop of more than $20 million from the guild’s last proposal outlined earlier this month that put the cost to the industry at $178 million a year, with the six largest firms ponying up $117 million of that. Whether this signals continuing flexibility as the May 1 deadline to reach agreement on a new contract approaches, or a line in the sand, remains to be seen.

Other key issues include stronger economic and workplace protections, and paid family leave for writers.

The current contract for film and TV writers expires on May 1. WGA and AMPTP began negotiating a new contract in early March, but those talks were discontinued March 24 when agreement could not be reached, and the WGA’s negotiating committee called for a strike authorization vote. On April 25, members overwhelmingly voted in favor of striking if an agreement cannot be reached, and the WGA returned to the negotiating table the same day.

If producers and writers fail to reach an agreement by midnight May 1, a temporary extension of the old contract may be enacted at 12:01 May 2 in order to allow talks to continue, two individuals with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap on Thursday.

Such extensions of talks are not uncommon. In 2014, for instance, SAG-AFTRA and Hollywood producers agreed to a 24-hour extension less than an hour before the existing pact ran out in order to prolong negotiations and avoid a strike.