Hollywood writers talks resume as strike deadline looms

By Jill Serjeant
FILE PHOTO: A view shows the "iconic "Hollywood" sign overlooking Southern California's film-and-television hub in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, California, U.S. January 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian

By Jill Serjeant

(Reuters) - Hollywood writers and representatives of movie and television conglomerates on Monday resumed contract talks aimed at staving off a strike as early as Tuesday that could black out TV talk shows and soap operas.

The 9,000-member Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) spent much of the weekend in negotiations ahead of a midnight PT (6 a.m. Tuesday GMT) contract expiration deadline, Hollywood trade outlets reported.

A source close to the talks, who wished to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said there had been "significant moves to reach agreement" over the weekend.

Variety, quoting sources, said negotiators ended the weekend "with more cautious optimism" about avoiding a strike than previously. The Hollywood Reporter said there could be an extension of the talks beyond midnight on Monday.

But if there is no agreement, the WGA is prepared to call for a stoppage and for picketing of the big TV and movie studios as early as Tuesday morning.

"T-shirts are printed. Signs are ready to go. Hope we don't need them," tweeted David Slack, a writer on CBS shows "Person of Interest" and "MacGyver" after a union meeting on Saturday.

The two sides have imposed a media blackout on the talks, which are centered on the revolution in the television industry that has seen the arrival of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, and a decline from around 22 episodes to 8-1O episodes seasons of scripted comedy or drama.

The WGA says its members, who are paid per episode, have suffered an average 23 percent drop in earnings in the past three years.

Royalties for shows sold on DVDs, streaming platforms and cable TV are also at issue, along with funding for the WGA's health plan.

The AMPTP represents entertainment giants Comcast Corp, Walt Disney Co, CBS Corp, Viacom Inc, Time Warner Inc and Twenty-First Century Fox Inc