The long-running strike by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) may be nearing its end, as four top Hollywood CEOs joined the talks for a second day on Thursday. The CEOs of Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, NBCUniversal, and Netflix met with the WGA leaders in Sherman Oaks, where they reportedly made some concessions on key issues such as streaming residuals, minimum staffing, and artificial intelligence.
Streaming Residuals: A Success-Based Bonus?
One of the main demands of the WGA has been to increase the residuals for writers whose shows are streamed on platforms like Netflix, Disney+, and HBO Max. The WGA has proposed a viewership-based residual that would increase a set amount for every 2.5 million views, where a “view” would be counted as any time someone watched at least half the program.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents the studios, has countered with a success-based residual, that would take the form of a bonus for streaming shows that reach certain audience thresholds. The AMPTP has argued that this would reward writers for creating popular and profitable shows, while also allowing the studios to invest in new and diverse content.
The exact details of the success-based residual are not known, but sources say that the AMPTP has made some moves in this area that they hope would be enough to break the logjam.
Minimum Staffing: A One Size Fits All Formula?
Another contentious issue has been the minimum staffing requirement for TV shows, which the WGA has demanded as a way to ensure fair pay and working conditions for writers. The WGA has suggested that every TV show should have a minimum number of writers on staff, which would increase with the number of episodes in a season.
The AMPTP has opposed this demand, saying that staffing decisions should be left up to the showrunner, rather than determined by a “one size fits all” formula. The AMPTP has also said that imposing a minimum staffing requirement would limit the creative freedom and flexibility of the showrunners, and potentially reduce the diversity and quality of TV shows.
The AMPTP is believed to be holding to this general position, though it may have made some movement on its offer.
Artificial Intelligence: A Threat or an Opportunity?
A new issue that has emerged in the negotiations is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to create or enhance content. The WGA has expressed concern over the potential impact of AI on writers’ pay and credit, as well as on their intellectual property rights. The WGA has demanded that AI systems not be allowed to train on writers’ scripts, and that writers be compensated for any use of their work by AI.
The AMPTP has previously said that the sides were close to an agreement that would allow writers to use AI without affecting their pay or credit. The key sticking point has been the WGA’s demand that AI systems not be allowed to train on writers’ scripts. The AMPTP has argued that this would hamper the development and innovation of AI technology, which could benefit both writers and studios in the long run.
The two sides also spent a portion of Wednesday’s session discussing artificial intelligence. The AMPTP may have made some progress in resolving this issue with the writers, which could also help in addressing similar concerns raised by SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union that is also on strike.
A Deal in Sight?
The involvement of the four CEOs in the talks has generated considerable optimism that a deal could be reached soon, with some predicting a tentative agreement could even be reached on Thursday. However, the WGA has cautioned against such expectations, saying that the rumors are only meant to raise hopes and make the WGA look unreasonable if it rejects the latest offer.
The WGA work stoppage began on May 2, 2023, affecting more than 10,000 writers across film and TV. SAG-AFTRA has been on strike since July 14, 2023, affecting more than 160,000 actors and performers. The strikes have disrupted the production and release of many shows and movies, causing significant losses for both sides.
The industry and the public are eagerly awaiting an end to the strikes, which have been described as one of the longest and most bitter labor disputes in Hollywood history.