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Writers Guild and studios reach tentative deal, potentially ending a months-long strike that ground Hollywood to a halt

Sep 25, 2023, 6:30 AM

Hollywood, CA - September 24: Members of WGA picket in front of CBS Television City on Sunday, Sept...

Hollywood, CA - September 24: Members of WGA picket in front of CBS Television City on Sunday, Sept. 24 in Hollywood, CA. The major film and television studios and striking writers reached a tentative agreement on September 24 after days of marathon negotiating sessions, the Writers Guild of America said. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

Los Angeles (CNN) — The major film and television studios and striking writers reached a tentative agreement on Sunday after days of marathon negotiating sessions, the Writers Guild of America said Sunday evening, paving a path forward to end the historic work stoppage that has frozen production and paralyzed much of Hollywood.

“What we have won in this contract – most particularly, everything we have gained since May 2nd – is due to the willingness of this membership to exercise its power, to demonstrate its solidarity, to walk side-by-side, to endure the pain and uncertainty of the past 146 days,” the WGA said in an email to members on Sunday. “It is the leverage generated by your strike, in concert with the extraordinary support of our union siblings, that finally brought the companies back to the table to make a deal.”

The terms of the agreement were not immediately known.

While the agreement still needs to be ratified by members of WGA, which represents more than 11,000 writers, this marks a significant turning point in the nearly five-month-long strike. The current walkout came close to beating the longest strike in WGA history, a 1988 strike that lasted 154 days.

“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional – with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership,” the WGA said in its message to members.

However, the tentative deal does not immediately end the strike.

“To be clear, no one is to return to work until specifically authorized to by the Guild. We are still on strike until then,” the WGA wrote. “But we are, as of today, suspending WGA picketing.” The Guild encouraged members to join the picket line for the actors’ strike instead this week.

The actors’ union, SAG-AFTRA, has also been on strike since mid-July; SAG-AFTRA represents about 160,000 actors.

Both Hollywood strikes have been drawn-out and costly, with the nationwide economic impact of more than $5 billion, according to economists. Industries like restaurants, service firms and prop shops have also felt the ripple effects from the ongoing disputes and have had to cut staffing as a result. In New York, disruption of 11 major productions resulted in a loss of $1.3 billion and 17,000 jobs, according to Empire State Development.

The WGA could on Tuesday authorize its members to return to work before the agreement is officially ratified by the union’s members, it said in its statement.

One person close to the matter said that, as a result, writers could potentially be back to work in just days.

People familiar with the matter on Sunday night voiced optimism the studios’ agreement with the writers will also allow it to reach a deal with the actors.

WGA concerns

Revenue streams from traditional linear television have been declining, and streaming services – while growing – are losing money. Seasons for streaming shows also tend to be shorter, which means less work for writers.

The writers have said they can’t afford to live under the current economics and pay structure of the television and movie industry, with fewer job opportunities on many shows and lower pay for many writers who do find work. There are many successful, even award-winning, writers who are finding themselves unable to make a living at the profession anymore.

Writers are also concerned about the rise of artificial intelligence and want protections to ensure movies and shows are written by humans, not machines.

In fact, the use of generative artificial intelligence in production was one of the final sticking points, a person familiar with the matter said.

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Writers Guild and studios reach tentative deal, potentially ending a months-long strike that ground Hollywood to a halt