In a high-stakes drama fit for well, television, the Writers Guild of America narrowly avoided a massive writer’s strike by striking a deal instead at the start of May 2017.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has negotiated a three-year deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, resulting in $130 million in gains for its members, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Although the agreement was initially described as “tentative,” guild leaders are confident this deal will satisfy the nearly 13,000 film and TV writers who were preparing to strike.
An increase in wages was a primary goal of the Guild, which is not unreasonable when you consider how television has changed in recent years. Seasons have become shorter, often from 22–24 episodes to 12 or 13—sometimes as low as 8, in the case of Netflix’s Stranger Things—and this means less money for writers.
The need for better wages is also apparent when looking at other salaries in the television and film industry. Consider Leslie Moonves, the CEO and chairman of CBS who, according to the New York Times, saw a 22 percent increase in his pay package, even when the network dipped in performance.
Aside from pay raises, the WGA also hoped to negotiate health care, an issue that’s all too prevalent (and contentious) for millions of Americans in light of the recent efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Nearly a decade ago, we saw a 100-day writers strike from November 5, 2007 to February 12, 2008. Before that, a 1988 strike lasted for 155 days.
The 2007 writers strike proved to be a dark time for some truly memorable shows such as LOST, 30 Rock, and Friday Night Lights. We also lost two episodes from the first season of Breaking Bad. It might be less noticeable when we re-watch (or even binge-watch) these shows on our favorite streaming service today. But for fans who were there to watch them as they premiered, they remember the events all too well: the tragic dip in quality of a beloved show, the uncertainty of whether there would be another season, the frustration of waiting for some sort of resolution—both for a show’s characters and its writers.
If a writers strike had occurred this year, production on scripted series would have likely halted, unless studios decided to bring in non-union writers. We would likely have started seeing a lot of re-runs and reality television (which saw a rise in popularity in the midst of the 2007 strike). However, being this late in the year, a time when some shows are winding down (notably Saturday Night Live, which concludes its 42nd season on May 20th), a summer break might not be too shocking—at first. Blockbuster films would continue to premiere in theaters, and because movie scripts take so long to produce, it would take longer for us to notice the effects.
Hollywood would definitely have noticed, though, having lost over $2 billion during the last writers walkout. According to The Hollywood Reporter, this time the California economy could have lost as much as $200 million a week.
Perhaps a more lasting effect could have been the final nail in the coffin for network television. Audiences may ultimately have turned to streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Many may have decided to cancel their cable service as weeks turned to months with no end in sight.
Either way, streaming services are sure to continue shaping how we watch, what we watch, and why we love it. One thing’s for sure: in this new golden age of television, the writing’s on the wall. Good scripts are non-negotiable.
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