What TV Writers Need to Know About the WGA Strike Talks

The L.A. Times, which actually knows about these things because, you know, company town, gives us the info we all need:

Golden Age of TV is not so golden for writers: Why the Writers Guild of America is moving closer to a strike
by David Ng

A decade ago, Hollywood writers brought the entertainment industry to a standstill when they walked off the job for three months in a dispute over pay for movies and TV shows distributed online. The strike halted dozens of TV and movie productions and sent shock waves through the Los Angeles economy.

Now, the Hollywood community is feeling a sense of déjà vu as the possibility of another strike looms large. After the collapse of talks with the major studios, the Writers Guild of America is seeking a strike authorization vote from members. While the union has until May 1 to reach an agreement, tensions are as high as they’ve been in years, say people close to the negotiations not authorized to comment.

The charged atmosphere is the result of a perfect storm of economic and digital changes bearing down on the business. Since the last writers strike, the industry has seen far-reaching shifts. Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon have transformed Hollywood and contributed to an unprecedented number of quality series being produced — a phenomenon often described as the new Golden Age of TV.

But times haven’t been golden for many writers for whom more is now less. Shorter seasons are the new norm, with many series consisting of 10 or fewer episodes on cable and streaming — less than half the length of traditional seasons on network shows. That has put writers in a financial crunch since many have exclusivity clauses that prevent them from working on multiple shows per season.

With reruns becoming a thing of the past, scribes are seeing smaller paychecks. As a result, they are contributing less to the guild’s health and pension plans at a time when more baby boomers are retiring and drawing on the plans.

“It’s getting more and more difficult to make a living as a writer,” said John Bowman, a TV writer-producer, and former head of the WGA negotiating committee.

Studios are equally dug in as more customers cut the cable cord in favor of streaming options. They’re also grappling with a dramatic fall-off in once-lucrative DVD sales and a flattening of attendance at the multiplex. They are releasing fewer titles a year, meaning fewer opportunities for screenwriters.

All of this has set the stage for conflict. A strike authorization vote is set to take place mid-April. The move is a typical negotiating tactic by unions, but the WGA said it’s a response to the hard-line position taken by the studios, which have so far refused most of their demands….

Read it all in the L.A. Times