On condition of anonymity, union executives indicated that executives at the major studios said their demands were reasonable and that a deal should be struck. In a statement hours later, the AMPTP rejected the WGA’s demands.
The news came in a memo to union members from the WGA News Writers Guild’s negotiating team.
“We have made it clear that we will negotiate with one or more major studios, outside the scope of the AMPTP, to establish a new WGA contract,” the bargaining team wrote. “Companies are not required to negotiate through AMPTP. So, if the economic instability of their own companies isn’t enough to propel a studio or two or three into AMPTP for their own self-interest, or to move away from the broken AMPTP model, perhaps Wall Street will finally create one. They do it.”
As the strike drags on, the economic woes are mounting
The last comment was a reference to a recent financial filing by Warner Bros. Discovery that said the studio could lose $500 million this year as the Hollywood strike continues.
In response, AMPTP said: “AMPTP member companies are aligned and negotiating together to reach a solution. Any suggestion to the contrary is incorrect. Every member company of AMPTP wants a fair contract for writers and actors and an end to strikes.
The actors joined the writers on picket in July — effectively shutting down Hollywood — and will have to sign a separate contract with the AMPTP even after the writers’ strike is resolved.
In many ways, the WGA memo publicly stated what industry insiders have been saying for a long time — that it doesn’t make sense for companies that are competitors and have different needs to negotiate together. For example, studios like Warner Bros., Paramount/CBS, and Sony are concerned with saving their fall seasons and getting big movies into theaters. Netflix, on the other hand, doesn’t operate under any specific time restriction and is supposed to have plenty of material to keep viewers interested for months.
Meanwhile, for Amazon and Apple, streaming is a small part of their overall business. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post. Interim CEO Patty Stonecipher sits on Amazon’s board.)
Everyone loses the streaming wars
AMPTP worked well for decades because it brought together like-minded studios and shared similar interests. The rise of streamers, however, has thrown a disruptive new element into the mix.
“Companies within the AMPTP who want a fair contract with the writers must either take control of the AMPTP process or decide to contract separately. At that time, a resolution to strike will be reached,” the WGA memo says.
The WGA’s move comes two days after Warner Bros. announced it was suspending some contracts with key showrunners such as Mindy Kaling. The move was seen by the writers as an attempt to separate them, which they said would not happen.
The Writers Guild is demanding a number of commitments from studios and streamers in current talks, including wage increases and guarantees about how many writers a show will hire and how long their tenure will be. They are also looking for guarantees regarding the use of artificial intelligence, which both actors and writers fear could replace them over time.
The AMPTP accused the WGA of being “entrenched” on the show staffing issue and argued that it had already achieved significant gains for members and “has the power to move this negotiation forward”.
Writers have said they want to preserve TV and film writing as a sustainable middle-class career in Hollywood, a possibility they fear is diminishing in a chaotic media environment that has yet to settle into a stable format amid ongoing struggles with streaming.
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