As the writers’ strike continues, the WGA is open to contracts without AMPTP

The Writers Guild of America said Friday that it is open to deals with major legacy studios and individual studios that want to ditch the group negotiating on behalf of Netflix and other streamers.

The Hollywood Writers Guild publicly called out studios and streaming services, which are represented in labor talks, for allowing internal disputes among motion picture and television producers to stand in the way of a deal. The screenwriters’ attempt to separate studios and streamers amounts to a major tactical escalation, as the strike, now 130 days old, drags on with little sign of progress.

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. AMPTP does not respond immediately.

The news came in a memo to union members from the 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.

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The actors joined the writers on picket in July – effectively shutting down Hollywood – and will have to negotiate 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 a day 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.

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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.

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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