The Writers Guild of America (WGA) called its first stoppage in 15 years, starting on Tuesday, after failing to reach an agreement on higher pay from studios such as Walt Disney and Netflix. The previous strike lasted 100 days and cost California’s economy more than $2bn.
The WGA said in a statement on its website: “The companies’ behaviour 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 guild represents approximately 11,500 writers in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere.
Writers say they have suffered financially during the TV streaming boom, partly because of shorter seasons and smaller residual payments. Half of TV series writers now work at minimum salary levels, compared with one-third in 2013-14, according to guild statistics. Median pay for scribes at the higher writer/producer level has fallen 4% over the last decade.
Artificial intelligence is another issue at the bargaining table. The WGA wants safeguards to prevent studios from using AI to generate new scripts from writers’ previous work. Writers also want to ensure they are not asked to rewrite draft scripts created by AI.
Further ahead, the strike could lead to a delay of the autumn TV season. Writing for these shows normally starts in May or June. If the work stoppage becomes protracted, the networks will increasingly fill their programming lineups with unscripted reality shows, news magazines and reruns.
Netflix may be insulated from any immediate impact because of its global focus and access to production facilities outside the US.