Hollywood chiefs and writers to resume negotiations Thursday after attendees ‘encouraged’ by talks

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For the first time in months, Hollywood studios and striking writers have made progress in their negotiations, potentially nearing an end to a more-than-140-day strike that has frozen production.


Writers and heads of the four major studios are set to meet for a second consecutive day Thursday as they try to hammer out a deal that puts to an end the historic strike.


The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers studio bosses — Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav, Disney chief Bob Iger, Netflix co-chief Ted Sarandos, and NBCUniversal studio chairman Donna Langley — resumed negotiations on Wednesday with the Writers Guild of America. After the meeting, both sides issued a rare joint statement.


“The WGA and AMPTP met for bargaining today and will meet again tomorrow,” they said.


Neither side said anything further. But the fact that the two sides — which at times have rebuked each other for comments to the media — issued a joint statement signalled a possible sign of progress.


Warner Bros. Discovery is CNN’s parent company.


Separately, a person familiar with the matter told CNN that the Wednesday talks left attendees “feeling encouraged.”


The current standoff has now stretched for more than 140 days and is approaching the longest writers’ strike on record, lasting 154 days in 1988.


WHAT THE WRITERS ARE FIGHTING FOR


Revenue streams from traditional linear television have been in decline, and streaming services – while growing – are losing money. Streaming shows tend to offer shorter seasons, reducing the amount of available work for writers.


The writers have said they can’t afford to live under the current economics and pay structure of the television and movie industry, with fewer job opportunities on many shows and lower pay for many writers who do find work. There are many successful, even award-winning, writers who are finding themselves unable to make a living at the profession anymore.


Many productions also employ fewer writers than were on staff in the past. And the writers’ union wants writers to collect residuals on streaming shows and movies when the content is sold and re-aired. It’s been an important source of income for many writers over the years. Today, they’re unlikely to get meaningful residuals, if any at all, when they create original content for streaming services.


Writers are also concerned about the rise of artificial intelligence and want protections to ensure movies and shows are written by humans, not machines.


Studio management says they’ve been trying to offer a deal that is beneficial to both sides, but that they can’t afford to meet all of the union’s demands, including minimum staffing levels and duration of employment when writers are hired.


NOT THE ONLY STRIKE IN TOWN


Even if the writers settle soon, most television and movie production can’t resume right away.


That’s largely because the SAG-AFTRA actors union remains on strike, and a deal between actors and Hollywood has remained elusive. They don’t have the same signs of progress in negotiations that the writers’ union has shown.


If a writers guild deal is reached, television talk shows hosted by Bill Maher and Drew Barrymore – both of which recently pulled back on plans to return to air – may come back quickly. Late night shows and “Saturday Night Live” could also return soon.


But they might have trouble booking celebrity guests. Actors who have movies and shows to promote have refused to appear on talk shows while the actors union remains on strike.


A BLOW TO ENTERTAINMENT AND THE ECONOMY


The strike has been economically and financially damaging.


The economic impact of the months-long writers’ and actors’ strikes has surpassed US$5 billion, and the pain has spread to multiple industries, according to Kevin Klowden, the Milken Institute’s chief global strategist.


Warner Bros. Discovery earlier this month trimmed its full-year earnings guidance for 2023 by US$300 million to US$500 million because of the continued strike by actors and writers.


The production stoppage has left a content void and slim pickings to fill a Fall TV schedule and movie lineup. That has pressured studios to make a deal, especially as traditional studios’ stocks have sunk – while Netflix’s shares have surged during the strike.

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