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WGA Strike Continues Amid Threats to Overall Deals

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
The WGA strike has entered its second week and is starting to threaten overall deals — Boardroom dives into what that means and what’s next.

Seeing only the online discourse, it could be easy to forget that the Writer’s Guild of America strike has real effects on those involved. Those effects reached a little wider on Monday with reports that several studios would suspend their current overall deals with writers.

The WGA represents 11,500 screenwriters who went on strike last week after contract negotiations with studios, streaming services, and networks failed. This is the first writers’ strike since a 2007 work stoppage that lasted more than three months.

“The week has shown, I think, just how committed and fervent writers’ feelings are about all of this,” Chris Keyser, a chair of the WGA negotiating committee, said in an interview. “They’re going to stay out until something changes because they can’t afford not to.”

As we hit week two of the strike, here’s where we stand.

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Overall Deals

Variety reported on Monday that Amazon, HBO, Warner Bros. TV, NBCUniversal, and more will suspend some of its overall deals in light of the strike.

An overall deal is when a studio signs a creator to develop content exclusively for them. Most of these contracts have clauses that allow them to suspend or terminate in the event of a major disruption — in this case, a writer’s strike.

One such example: The Duffer brothers, who created Stranger Things, have an overall deal with Netflix. There’s no word on whether that deal will be suspended for the duration of the strike. That said, the strike has forced the show has temporarily halt production on its fifth and final season. The Duffer Brothers released a statement about it over the weekend:

Then on Monday, The Wire creator David Simon announced that HBO suspended his overall deal after 25 years of collaboration. Simon made his thoughts known immediately, joining protestors in the picket line.

What’s Next for the WGA Strike

As Boardroom has previously covered, three main issues that the WGA wants to see addressed are residuals for streaming shows, staff cutbacks, and the increasing influence of artificial intelligence.

While there hasn’t been a ton of change in any of those areas, industry executives have come forward to give us a better idea of what needs to happen moving forward.

“In streaming, the companies have not agreed to pay residuals at the same level as broadcast, or the same reward-for-success as they have traditionally paid in broadcast,” Charles Slocum, assistant executive director at the WGA West, told Deadline. “If you write for a streamer, you get two residual payments — one for domestic streaming and one for foreign streaming. It’s a set amount of money. If it’s a big hit, you do not get paid more residuals in streaming, whereas in the broadcast model, you do because of its success.”

It goes beyond how the writers are getting paid, however. The WGA contends that fundamental change is necessary to how many studios staff their writers.

The union believes that studios are cutting corners by relying too heavily on “mini rooms” rather than a traditional writers’ room. A mini room is where studios hire small groups of writers to develop several scripts for a potential series. Because the series hasn’t been picked up yet, those writers are not paid as much as they would be in a traditional writers’ room.

And then there’s the still relatively new threat of artificial intelligence taking writers’ places for major TV shows and films. A major point of contention for the WGA is around assurances that AI models will not replace their jobs.

Many public figures such as Quinta Brunson, Cynthia Nixon, and more have stood alongside writers to fight for better pay opportunities and equality in the entertainment industry. Even live television programs like the MTV Movie and TV Awards 2023 were canceled after host Drew Barrymore exited in solidarity with the writer’s strike.

With those names and plenty more holding strong, it will be interesting to see how long it takes for studios to ultimately come back to the table.

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About The Author
Kenyatta Victoria
Kenyatta Victoria
Kenyatta Victoria is a cross-topic journalist specializing in music and culture reporting. She has words in the Essence Girls United, The TRiiBE, and Chicago Reader.