Writers Guild of America reaches deal, avoids strike

The Writers Guild of America on Tuesday said it has reached a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, avoiding a strike just as its most current contract expired.

The guild's negotiating committee said it is recommending the deal for ratification by WGA members.

"The Writers Guilds of America, West and East and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have concluded negotiations and have reached a tentative agreement on terms for a new three-year collective bargaining agreement," the WGA and the AMPTP said in a joint statement to The Hollywood Reporter early Tuesday morning.

Last month, 96 percent of the guild's voting members authorized a strike against Hollywood's film and television production companies, meaning a work stoppage could have begun Tuesday if negotiations had not been successful.

"In [the deal], we made gains in minimums across the board -- as well as contribution increases to our health plan that should ensure its solvency for years to come. And we further expanded our protections in options and exclusivity," the WGA negotiating committee said in a letter to its members.

"We also made unprecedented gains on the issue of short seasons in television, winning a definition [which has never before existed in our (minimum basic agreement)] of 2.4 weeks of work for each episodic fee. Any work beyond that span will now require additional payment for hundreds of writer-producers. We won a 15 percent increase in Pay TV residuals, roughly $15 million in increases in high-budget [subscription video on demand] residuals, and, for the first time ever, residuals for comedy-variety writers in Pay TV. And, also for the first time ever, job protection on parental leave."

The guild last went on strike for 100 days in 2007-08.

Actress Sandra Oh joins Writers Guild of America members as they marched down Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles on November 20, 2007, along with supporters, on the 16th day of their strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. A WGA strike was averted Tuesday after successful negotiations with the AMPTP. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

Writers Guild of America Reach Deal With Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers

It went beyond the deadline but the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers came to terms on a new contract early Tuesday, defusing the threat of a strike crippling the film and television industry.

The sides shook hands 90 minutes after the previous contract expiration deadline passed. The WGA had vowed to strike Tuesday if a deal was not in place.

The guild's instant "pencils down" policy had meant that shows that work on a quick-turnaround — notably day-time soap operas and late-night talk programs like "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live" — would be out of topical material immediately.

If ratified by its members, the tentative deal will cover its television and film writers for three years. It addresses health care issues, parental leave and overtime payment among other sticking points.

Pickets could have started immediately, sending late-night talk shows into reruns and eventually impacting scripted series and feature films in development.

The previous writers' strike occurred nearly 10 years ago and gradually took a wider toll on Hollywood TV and movie production and the California economy.

"Your negotiating committee is pleased to report that we have reached a tentative agreement with the AMPTP that we can recommend for ratification," the WGA told members in a memo early Tuesday. "In it, we made gains in minimums across the board — as well as contribution increases to our health plan that should ensure its solvency for years to come."

Both sides had been negotiating for the past week with a looming deadline of midnight local time (3 a.m. ET) Monday, when the writers' current contract expired. A strike would have required nearly all of the WGA's 13,000 members to stop work immediately — hitting late-night talk shows, daytime soap operas, and "Saturday Night Live," and disrupting upcoming TV series and films.

Negotiations for the new contract began on March 13 and broke off twice. The WGA repeatedly pointed to its calculation that the six major entertainment conglomerates generated $51 billion in operating profits during 2016 — including that figure in an April 28 message to members, estimating that it would cost employers $156 million annually to increase payments to writers under its proposal to production companies.

If the WGA had walked out, it would have been the guild's seventh strike since 1960. The most recent strike was an acrimonious 100-day work stoppage, fueled by the WGA's demand for new media residuals and jurisdiction. That strike started Nov. 5, 2007, and ended Feb. 12, 2008.

NBC News' parent company, NBCUniversal, is a member of AMPTP, the trade group representing film studios and the TV networks during discussions with the WGA.

Writers Guild, Studios Reach Last-Minute Deal to Avoid Strike

It was a cliffhanger ending, but the Writers Guild of America and the studios have reached a new deal that will keep the scripts coming and Hollywood at work.

The threat of the first strike in a decade was averted after a marathon negotiating session that went past the midnight deadline, leaving much of Hollywood staying up late and checking social media, looking for hints as to whether there would be picket lines on Tuesday.

The parties issued a joint statement confirming the new three-year agreement.

In a memo to its membership, guild negotiators cited several key concessions, including increased studio contributions to their health plan, and a new definition for short-order TV series that will earn writers more pay for episodes that take longer than 2.4 weeks to produce.

The new contract also adds job protections for members on parental leave.

"Did we get everything we wanted? No. Everything we deserve? Certainly not," the WGA memo added.

A crippling writers' strike in 2007 brought scripted production to a screeching halt and dealt a significant blow to California's economy; still, the latest talks between the studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, and the WGA came down to the wire. Their existing agreement was set to expire at the end of the day on Monday.

Writers had been pressing a number of key demands, including the larger contributions to their health care plan.

For consumers, the immediate effects of a strike would have been visible first in late-night television, sidelining programs hosted by Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, and Jimmy Kimmel, among others.

The WGA cited massive studio profits as justification for the contentious negotiations, pointing to lavish CEO salaries as proof that writes merely deserved their fair share.

In just the last few weeks, for example, it was reported that CBS Chief Leslie Moonves received a pay bump that brought his 2016 compensation to $69.6 million. NBC Universal's Steve Burke took home $46.1 million in 2016 and AMC Networks' Josh Sapan enjoyed a hefty $30.5 million last year, which amounts to a 72% raise.

The writers overwhelmingly voted last month to authorize a strike, giving their the leadership the leverage they hoped they would need to secure a more favorable deal. Still, many writers noted that they were voting for a strike with the hope it wouldn't come to that.

The WGA negotiating committee included notable writers like Damon Lindelof ("Lost"), Jonathan Nolan ("Westworld"), Amy Berg ("Leverage") and Beau Willimon ("House of Cards").

"WGA MEMBERS: Thank you for your trust, your patience, and your heart," Berg tweeted early Tuesday.

The WGA is one of three major talent guilds with which the studios must negotiate. The Directors Guild of America hammered out a separate deal late last year and talks with the Screen Actors Guild are expected to begin later this month.

Although certain aspects of the guild agreements overlap, each has their own individual concerns that can complicate the negotiations.

While the major studios are large enough to weather a strike for a while, there were incentives to avoid it. Among the most pressing are this month's upfront presentations, when TV networks unveil their fall program lineups to advertisers.

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