The Writers Guild of America (WGA) is going on strike for the first time in 15 years after negotiations with major studios, including Disney and Netflix, over higher pay broke down.
The move could disrupt TV programming and lead to a delay of the autumn TV season, Reuters reported. The last WGA strike, in 2007-08, lasted 100 days and cost the Californian economy more than $2bn (£1.6bn).
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents the studios, insists that writers have been offered “generous increases in compensation” and added that it remained willing to keep negotiating.
According to studios, the primary sticking point is a union proposal that television shows be required to maintain a certain number of writers for a specified period of time “whether needed or not”.
The WGA countered that “the companies’ behavior has created a gig economy inside a union workforce, and their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing”.
The union “painted the dispute in stark terms”, The New York Times said, insisting that the rise of streaming services has eroded their working conditions. The WGA described this as an “existential” moment, and that “the survival of writing as a profession is at stake in this negotiation”.
The strike comes amid tough economic times for media companies. Many are under pressure from investors to make streaming services profitable, while TV ad revenues continue to decline as traditional television audiences shrink and advertisers move their money elsewhere.
As the deadline for the strike approached last night, the WGA told members to prepare to begin picketing by Tuesday afternoon in Los Angeles and New York if a new contract agreement is not reached.
One communications executive told Variety magazine that Los Angeles was “eerily quiet” as the deadline approached. “It is overcast in LA and that matches the mood of the town,” they said.