Hollywood writers' strike to begin as talks end without agreement

The WGA called for a strike effective 12:01 a.m. PT on Tuesday.

May 2, 2023, 4:14 AM

Unions representing thousands of Hollywood movie and television writers voted last month to authorize a strike when their contracts run out at midnight on Tuesday.

The WGA called for a strike effective 12:01 a.m. PT on Tuesday.

Now, the time is here, with writers demanding that studios pay them accordingly as shifts in streaming have changed the way shows are made and monetized.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said in a statement on Monday night that its negotiations with the Writers Guild of America "concluded without an agreement today."

"The AMPTP member companies remain united in their desire to reach a deal that is mutually beneficial to writers and the health and longevity of the industry, and to avoid hardship to the thousands of employees who depend upon the industry for their livelihoods," the AMPTP statement read, in part.

The current television landscape is vastly different than it was in 2007.

Since the rise of streaming, viewers are much less tied to linear TV lineups, and that will dampen the immediate effect on scripted shows.

Mega-studios now have much more content in the pipeline for distribution across multiple platforms, meaning there would not be such an immediate drought of scripted TV.

Late-night TV, on the other hand, will once again be the quickest area to be impacted. If no agreement is reached, you can say goodbye to the remainder of the current season of "Saturday Night Live," and daily late-night hosts will have to decide if they will remain in production without their writers like they did in 2007.

PHOTO: Demonstrators carry signs during a screenwriter's strike in New York City on May 2, 2023.
Demonstrators carry signs during a screenwriter's strike in New York City on May 2, 2023.
Leonardo Munoz/AFP via Getty Images

"It may be a long time before viewers really feel the impact of a strike if it were to go on for many weeks," Cynthia Littleton, co-editor-in-chief at Variety, told ABC News, adding that Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services have "such vast libraries of shows."

Helping soften the blow of this strike is the timing, as many traditional TV programs have already wrapped up shooting their seasons and broadcast networks are gearing up for a summer of game shows and reality TV.

New experimentation in programming

Media companies are already experimenting with different types of shows across linear, streaming and cable, and a writers' strike will only hasten those companies' plans, according to Littleton.

"Those companies will have every incentive to look across their vast array of content assets and say, ‘Well, I have a big hole to fill on ABC at nine o'clock on Thursdays. What if I tried this show?’ And I think that you could, if there is a prolonged strike, you could see that will absolutely accelerate more of that experimentation that is already happening," she said.

How writers are compensated as TV seasons get shorter and shorter is an issue at hand

The age of television, where networks were previously giving television series' 22 episodes a season has changed, according to entertainment attorney Jonathan Handel.

"Streaming series are 10, eight, sometimes even six or even four episodes and that has affected cable television as well," Handel told ABC News. "It's affected network television as well. The number of episodes produced in aggregate per year in this business has actually declined."

PHOTO: Demonstrators carry signs during a screenwriter's strike in New York City, May 2, 2023.
Demonstrators carry signs during a screenwriter's strike in New York City, May 2, 2023. More than 11,000 Hollywood television and movie writers went on their first strike in 15 years after talks with studios and streamers over pay and working conditions failed to clinch a deal. The strike means late-night shows are expected to grind to a halt immediately, while television series and movies scheduled for release later this year and beyond could face major delays.
Leonardo Munoz/AFP via Getty Images

"In effect, people are -- especially writers -- are hired by the series, but they're paid by the episode," he added. "So, when you've got more people sharing a pie that in some ways is smaller, you have a structural pressure that is very hard to relieve, on the labor market."

A writer strike could cost the economy billions of dollars

Of course, the broader economic impact in Los Angeles, as well as New York, Georgia and New Mexico, among other cities, will be enormous.

With productions shut down, people well beyond writers -- from anyone involved in productions to restaurants near studios -- will be feeling the pinch as the strike moves on.

The most recent full-fledged strike took place in 2007 and cost the California economy an estimated $2.1 billion.

"The economic impact of the last writers’ strike, 15 years ago, was about $200 million or more a day," Handel said.

Those costs factored in a lot of people who were not able to pay their mortgages and rent, bought less food, and spent less on discretionary items, according to Handel.

"The impact today -- with inflation and the degree of connectedness to the economy -- would no doubt be significantly larger than that," he said.

ABC News' Max Zahn contributed to this report.

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