By Chris Isidore, CNN
Movie and TV studios, already facing a Writers Guild of America strike, began contract negotiations Wednesday with the Directors Guild of America. If those talks break down, they could lead to even broader work stoppages on movie and television sets across the country.
SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents the actors, will start its own talks next month. The industry is undergoing major changes due to the shift to streaming, and all three sets of conversations could prove difficult.
Without a quick resolution, American audiences may be left without a lot of new content to watch later this year or in early 2024.
“We know there will be conflict,” Todd Holland, a member of the directors’ bargaining committee, said in a message to the union’s 19,000 members. “The battle will test us. But we will not rest until we win a solid contract today that builds a bridge to DGA’s continued prosperity in the future.”
He switch to transmission it has turned the economics of the industry upside down. Most streaming services outside of Netflix have been losing money, though Warner Bros. Discovery, the owner of CNN, just reported their first narrow gain from your streaming service.
“The explosive popularity of broadcasting around the world has transformed how and where our work is viewed, and our contracts must adapt to changes in production and distribution,” said Karen Gaviola, another member of the directors’ bargaining team.
But the economics of traditional media are also getting tougher, with ad revenue plummeting and movie box office still well below pre-pandemic levels. The studios are represented in the negotiations by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which includes Amazon, Apple, CBS, Disney, NBC Universal, Netflix, Paramount Global, Sony and Warner Bros. Discovery.
Many of these companies have announced deep layoffs as part of cost reduction efforts in recent months. The most recent came in world paramountwhich this week announced it would lay off 25% of the US staff at its Paramount Media Networks, Showtime and MTV divisions.
Holland said the union seeks to strengthen members’ economic and creative rights and improve health care and pension plans, as well as dangerously long work hours.
“We are fighting to receive our fair share of the new global future,” he said.
The AMPTP had no comment on the start of the talks.
Current contracts with AMPTP and both the DGA and SAG-AFTRA expire on June 30. There is a good chance that the Writers Guild could still be on strike at that point. No talks have been held since the strike began just before midnight on May 1.
Both the DGA and SAG-AFTRA have issued statements in support of the writers and their demands for negotiation.
Late-night TV shows were the first to be halted by the writers’ strike, and some other popular shows now in production, including Strange things, have been postponed too. But many movies have continued shooting because they already have finished scripts. Those movies could stop production if the directors or actors pulled out.
“The fact that the other agreements are also coming to an end is a huge plus not only for the writers but for each of these other unions,” said Tom Nunan, a professor at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. , as well as a film producer and writer
But there are risks for the Writers Guild if the DGA and SAG-AFTRA reach their own agreements, either before the contracts expire or at the start of a strike by one of those unions.
“It could increase the pressure on writers to make the deal if other guilds make their deals,” he said.
Nunan said some issues, such as residuals that shows on streaming services will pay for instead of traditional TV networks, are important to all three unions. But some of the topics that are important to writers, like the size of writing staff on shows, are not topics in the DGA or SAG-AFTRA talks.
The CNN Wire
™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery company. All rights reserved.