In escalation of strike, screenwriters’ union seeks to split studios from streaming services

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The Writers Guild of America said Friday that it’s open to deals with individual studios that want to ditch the group that has been negotiating on behalf of major legacy studios, as well as Netflix and other streamers.

The Hollywood writers’ union also publicly called out studios and streaming services, which are being represented in the labor talks by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, for letting their internal disputes stand in the way of a deal.

SAG-AFTRA members Justy Hutchins, left, and Eddie Deirmenjian picket outside Walt Disney Studios.Credit: AP

The screenwriters’ attempt to split studios and streamers amounted to a major tactical escalation as the strike, now 130 days old, drags on with little sign of a breakthrough.

Without naming names, union officials said that executives at major studios had indicated their demands were reasonable and that a deal was there to be had. The AMPTP had no immediate response.

The message came in a memo from the writers guild’s negotiating committee to union members.

“We have made it clear that we will negotiate with one or more of the major studios, outside the confines of the AMPTP, to establish the new WGA deal,” the bargaining committee wrote. “There is no requirement that the companies negotiate through the AMPTP.

“So, if the economic destabilisation of their own companies isn’t enough to cause a studio or two or three to either assert their own self-interest inside the AMPTP, or to break away from the broken AMPTP model, perhaps Wall Street will finally make them do it.”

The last comment was a reference to a recent financial filing from Warner Bros. Discovery disclosing that the studio could lose $US500 million this year as Hollywood’s strike drags on.

Actors are also on strike and would have to negotiate a separate deal with the AMPTP.

Members of The Writers Guild of America picket outside Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles. Credit: AP

In many ways the WGA memo stated publicly what industry insiders have long been saying: it makes little sense to have companies that are competitors and have different imperatives negotiating together.

For example, studios like Warner Bros., Paramount/CBS and Sony are concerned about salvaging their fall seasons and getting major movies into theatres.

Netflix, on the other hand, is not operating under any particular time constraint and is thought to have plenty of material to sustain viewer interest for months to come.

Meanwhile, for Amazon and Apple, streaming is just a small part of their overall business.

“The companies inside the AMPTP who want a fair deal with writers must take control of the AMPTP process itself, or decide to make a deal separately. At that point, a resolution to the strike will be in reach,” the memo said.

Washington Post

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