Union leaders and Hollywood studios have finally reached a provisional agreement Sunday to end the screenwriters strike after nearly five months, though no deal has been reached with striking actors who continue refuse to learn their lines.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) said it was “exceptional – with meaningful gains and protections for writers”. WGA members must still have a final say.
Hollywood writers have been striking in a row over pay and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the industry.
Stranger Things and the Last of Us are among the shows which have been paused.
The writers’ walkout, which began on 2 May, has cost the US economy around $5bn (£4.08bn), according to an estimate from Milken Institute economist Kevin Klowden.
The dispute has shut down many of America’s top shows, including Billions, The Handmaid’s Tale, Hacks, Severance, Yellowjackets, The Last of Us, Stranger Things, Abbott Elementary and several daytime and late-night talk shows.
As well as issues around pay, the writers fear the impact of artificial intelligence potentially supplanting their talents.
Negotiations also broke down over staffing levels and the royalty payments that writers receive for popular streaming shows. They complain that those residuals are just a fraction of the earnings they would get from a broadcast TV show.
Traditionally, writers would receive additional payments when their programmes were repeated on a broadcast network. However, this model was undermined with the advent of streaming.
As a result part of the payments writers now receive generally include a certain amount of money which is intended to compensate for the royalties they are not receiving from broadcast repeats.
The Writers Guild of America announced the screenwriters deal in a statement.
The three-year contract agreement — settled on after five marathon days of renewed talks by negotiators for the Writers Guild of America and an alliance of studios, streaming services and production companies — needs to be approved by the guild’s board and members before the strike can officially be considered to be over.
The terms of the deal were not immediately announced. The tentative deal to end the last writers strike, in 2008, was approved by more than 90% of members.
As a result of the agreement, nightly network shows including NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” could return to the air within days.
But as writers prepare to potentially crack open their laptops again, it’s still far from business as usual in Hollywood, as talks have not yet resumed between studios and striking actors.
Non-acting crew members such as camera and lighting technicians left with no work by the stoppage will remain unemployed for the time being.
The proposed solution to the writers strike comes after talks resumed on Wednesday or the first time in a month.
Chief executives including Bob Iger of Disney, Ted Sarandos of Netflix, David Zaslav of Warner Bros. Discovery and Donna Langley of NBCUniversal reportedly took part in the negotiations directly.
About 11,500 members of the Writers Guild of America walked off the job May 2 over issues of pay, the size of writing staffs on shows and the use of artificial intelligence in the creation of scripts.
Actors, who joined the writers on strike in July, have their own issues but there have been no discussions about resuming negotiations with their union yet.
The writers strike immediately sent late-night talk shows and “Saturday Night Live” into hiatus, and has since sent dozens of scripted shows and other productions into limbo, including forthcoming seasons of Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” HBO’s “The Last of Us,” and ABC’s “Abbot Elementary,” and films including “Deadpool 3” and “Superman: Legacy.” The Emmy Awards were also pushed from September to January.
More recently, writers had been targeting talk shows that were working around strike rules to return to air, including “The Drew Barrymore Show,” “Real Time With Bill Maher” and “The Talk.” All reversed course in the face of picketing and pressure and are likely to quickly return now.
The combined strikes made for a pivotal moment in Hollywood as creative labor faced off against executives in a business transformed and torn by technology, from the seismic shift to streaming in recent years to the potentially paradigm-shifting emergence of AI in the years to come.
Screenwriters had traditionally gone on strike more than any other segment of the industry but had enjoyed a relatively long stretch of labor peace until spring negotiations for a new contract fell apart. The walkout was their first since 2007 and their longest since 1988.
On July 14, more than two months into the strike, the writers got a dose of solidarity and star power — along with a whole lot of new picketing partners — when they were joined by 65,000 striking film and television actors.
It was the first time the two groups had been on strike together since 1960. In that walkout, the writers strike started first and ended second. This time, studios opted to deal with the writers first.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the group that represents employers in negotiations, first reached out to suggest renewing negotiations in August. The meetings were short, infrequent, and not productive, and talks went silent for another month.
Source: VOA, BBC, news agencies.