On September 27, 2023, the prolonged Hollywood writers’ strike reached a resolution when the Writers Guild of America (WGA) disclosed the specifics of a tentative agreement with Hollywood studios. The strike, lasting nearly 150 days since May 2, ceased, allowing writers to resume work from 12:01 a.m. on the following Wednesday. According to an email disseminated to the union’s members, this development does not impede the members’ entitlement to have the final say on contract approval.
Salary Increment and Residuals Gain
The three-year accord entails a 12.5% salary increment, commencing with a 5% increase upon the contract’s ratification, followed by annual hikes of 4% and 3.5% for the succeeding two years. This stride toward amelioration came after an initial request by the WGA for a 16% raise over three years from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
A pivotal achievement was a 76% elevation in foreign streaming residuals, pushing residuals from Netflix for an hour-long episode from $18,684 to $32,830. The agreement also introduced a “viewership-based streaming bonus,” ranging from $9,000 to $40,500, contingent on the show’s length or a streaming feature’s budget exceeding $30 million.
Transparency in Viewership Tracking
A pivotal step toward transparency was made when the AMPTP acceded to share the aggregate number of hours streamed both domestically and internationally, under the stipulation of confidentiality between the two factions. This data sharing enables a more accurate appraisal of writers’ contributions, although the dissemination of information remains limited to an aggregated form to the union members.
Enhanced Staffing Requirements
A significant outcome of the negotiations was the stipulation on mandatory staffing requirements, which studios had initially resisted. The terms now require studios to employ a minimum of three writer-producers, inclusive of the showrunner, for a ten-week span during a series’ development phase, dubbed “development rooms.” Post greenlight, the minimal writer requisite escalates to five once a series attains seven episodes, with an additional writer for series extending beyond 13 episodes, thereby enriching the “post-greenlight rooms” concept.
Artificial Intelligence Guidelines Established
A contentious matter during the negotiations was the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI). The final agreement laid down clear guidelines on AI usage in MBA-covered productions, ensuring that AI cannot replace human creativity in writing or rewriting literary materials. It mandates studios to notify writers regarding any AI-generated materials while preserving writers’ prerogatives to assert against the utilization of their materials for AI training purposes.
A Forward Step, Yet Challenges Remain
The tentative accord marks a significant step toward restoring normalcy in Hollywood, yet it doesn’t signify an immediate reverting to routine. A parallel strike by the actors’ union still lurks, prolonging the full resumption of Hollywood’s operations. As the WGA’s full membership prepares to vote between October 2 and October 9, Hollywood anticipates a steady resumption, albeit with a keen eye on the unfolding scenario with the actors’ union.