Studios on Watch for Possible TV Writers’ Strike

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BY November 28, 2019

Much like animals banking food for the winter, studios have begun accumulating scripts for their current shows (and new ones). This is in anticipation of a TV writers’ strike, news that hearkens back to the strike of ’07-08. Here’s how it could affect your TV viewing experience.

Who Are the Players?

The Writers Guild of America needs to come to an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. This isn’t a new thing, though; they are meeting to negotiate new contracts. The current contracts are up in 5 months, but they haven’t met yet, and the studios are getting anxious.

Although no one’s ever accused Hollywood of having a long memory–just look at all their remakes–they certainly remember the last big strike. From November 2007 to February 2008, both branches of the WGA, East and West, went on strike. Not only did it shut down the industry, forcing some shows into shortened or revamped seasons, but more importantly to Hollywood, it cost a lot. How much? Well, no one’s really sure, but estimates have ranged from just $380 million to somewhere north of $2 billion. With a B. In addition, as the WGA is currently at odds with talent agencies, after firing agencies that didn’t agree with a new code of conduct, you can understand why TV studios would be scared.

Further, the writers are definitely at an advantage. As we are knee-deep in the streaming wars–watch them go–there is a demand for content like never before. They have got to do something to fill those hours and the answer can’t just be “more unscripted shows.” (Please, no.)

A TV Writers’ Strike and What It Means for You

Will there even be a TV writers’ strike? First, again, as the two unions haven’t even begun meeting yet, there’s no way to give you a definitive answer. But it certainly feels as if it’s in the air. For one, there’s the aforementioned script stockpiling that’s currently in place. If there is a strike, then TV studios want to be able to get back into production as soon as possible. But that’s not the only preparation they’re making.

Streamers like Netflix like limited series because they help attract new subscribers. They’re also becoming more popular on regular TV. (See Chernobyl, for example.) And now they may become even more prevalent, because they’re usually sold with ready-to-go scripts. So if multi-season shows shut down, studios can just start cranking out limited edition shows. So that’s what you have to look forward to, if the strike is as inevitable as some industry insiders believe. But not everyone believes the writing’s on the wall (sorry).

Screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin, for instance, discussed the possibilities in a recent episode of their podcast, concluding that it’s a not a done deal. However, Mazin thought that the AMPTP, believing that a strike is inevitable, would present the WGA with a terrible deal. As Mazin put it, “…one of the great dangers of them being convinced that we’re going on strike is that they will precipitate the strike.” We will have to watch and see, I guess.

Are you concerned about the possibility of a TV writers’ strike? Protest in the comments or come tell us on social media.

featured image via Jengod

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Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf.

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