The Writers Guild of America on Tuesday announced the details of the tentative agreement it reached with major Hollywood studios to end the strike that has been ongoing for nearly five months.
A seven-page summary documentdistributed to the WGA’s 11,500 members for film and television writers, includes wage and salary increases and language that responds to the union’s demands for minimum staff salaries on television writers’ rooms, payments based on the success of streaming shows and protections against the use of artificial intelligence.
It was a deal that the writers fought hard for.
The WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents major entertainment companies on the labor front, made the pact on Sunday after 146 days of pickets and demonstrations that brought production of films and television scripts to a virtual halt. The writers’ strike began on May 2nd. SAG-AFTRA actors, who continue to strike, took to the picket lines in mid-July.
The WGA West Board of Directors and the WGA East Council agreed The deal was unanimously recommended by the guild’s negotiating committee. Now it will go to union members for a ratification vote. The WGA said the strike would officially end on Wednesday and writers would finally get back to work. Ratification is expected to take place in October.
The WGA said the total value of the deal was $233 million, compared to $86 million that AMPTP had offered.
“This contract, won with the strength of member solidarity and our union brothers and sisters in a 148-day strike, includes significant gains and protections for writers across all segments of the membership,” the union’s document states.
“We feel great. We won,” WGA West President Meredith Stiehm said in an interview.
Here are the basics of what’s included in the deal.
The three-year film and television deal increases base wages by 5% in the first year, followed by 4% in the second year and 3.5% in the third year. Select remaining base and minimum wages will receive smaller increases or individual increases, the guild said.
The contract establishes a system for awarding bonuses to creators based on viewership on streaming services.
Writers already receive residuals from shows produced for streaming services, but the WGA wanted to introduce a system that rewards writers when their work attracts big audiences on, say, Netflix. The way compensation typically works in streaming is that producers are paid upfront but don’t share in the profits. The guild wanted to change that. To achieve this goal, the WGA wanted streamers to be more transparent with viewer data, a central issue of the strike.
The deal allows the WGA to receive confidential viewership metrics for original streaming shows based on hours watched. Aggregated data can be shared.
The contract sets minimum staffing requirements for the television writers’ rooms, depending on the length of the season. For series with up to six episodes, for example, three authors must be hired. For shows with 13 or more episodes per season, the minimum cast is six writers, including three writer-producers. The minimum writer employment per episode applies to shows being greenlit, “unless a single writer is hired to write all episodes of a season,” the document says.
One of the biggest complaints among screenwriters negotiating contracts was that in the streaming age, TV seasons have become shorter and writers’ rooms have become smaller. That means fewer opportunities for writers, who have to cobble together one job after another to make a living. The increasing use of “mini-rooms,” in which a team of writers break down a season of a series before production begins, has limited the ability of early-career writers to gain television production experience.
The new WGA contract includes language that governs studios’ use of AI, but also provides flexibility for guild members. According to the guild’s document, companies must disclose to authors whether material provided to an author was generated by AI or contains AI-generated material.
The use of artificial intelligence has become a hot topic in the entertainment industry, and studios are looking for ways to make the development and production process more efficient. The rapid rise of ChatGPT and other examples of generative AI technology has come into focus for writers who believe such “efficiencies” threaten the employment of screenwriters. This was one of the final and most difficult points of the contract to work out. Neither side wants to commit to contract language that would backfire in three years.
Times staff writer Stacy Perman contributed to this report.