On May 2nd, The Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) reached an eleventh-hour agreement on a new three-year collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that averts a pending strike by the writers that was scheduled to begin that day. The agreement was announced in a joint statement by the WGA and AMPTP mere hours prior to the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement.
The joint statement was light on the details of what was included in the new CBA but is believed to include a bailout for the WGA’s ailing health insurance plan, which is running steep deficits. Other contentious issues bringing the negotiations down to the wire included raising rates for streaming television series to be on par with those paid on broadcast network series, larger residuals for online reruns of old shows and movies, and “span”—how long television writers spend on individual scripts.
The “span” issue has arisen because networks are ordering more television series but fewer episodes per season, with each episode taking longer to produce. Because writers are generally paid on a per episode basis, these changes have created disparities in how much TV writers earn, despite television’s ascendance as a dominant cultural medium.
Many in the entertainment world were dreading what appeared to be an impending strike as memories of the last strike in 2007-2008 remain fresh. That strike, which lasted 100 days, was estimated to cost the entertainment industry over $2 billion and has been widely credited with aiding the rise of reality television, which does not rely on writers’ scripts.
Last month, writers overwhelmingly voted to authorize the strike, and the contentious negotiations included multiple starts and stops in the process. As of last week, the divide in the positions of the parties seemed so wide that many writers were taking precautions such as removing valuable items from studio offices on Monday afternoon. Reports have also circulated that WGA strike captains circulated memos to writers that included picket-line strategies.
Needless to say, many in the industry woke up with relief on Tuesday that they would be headed to work as usual and fans of film and television can be assured that their favorite shows will continue unabated, at least until the next round of negotiations.
Details on what was included in the new CBA, including pay rates, residuals, and “span” should be forthcoming in the coming days.