UPDATED: The Writers Guild of America and Hollywood’s major studios moved significantly closer to ending the nearly five-month strike late Friday. A third day of marathon negotiations ended without a deal but with strong indications that the sides are closing in on a tentative agreement on a hard-fought three-year contract.
The sides will meet again on Saturday, underscoring the urgency surrounding the negotiations. The long-stalled talks have been jumpstarted this week by the presence of four top studio executives. It was not clear whether that executive foursome will join again in person.
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The senior executives — Disney’s Bob Iger, Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav, NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley and Netflix’s Ted Sarandos — who have helped guide the highly contested negotiations left the headquarters of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers’ headquarters is Sherman Oaks around 8:30 p.m. on Friday. Source on both sides of the table indicated that movement was finally made in the final hours of Friday’s session, which began at 11 a.m. PT.
Late Friday, the WGA sent a short message to members confirming that negotiations are scheduled to resume Saturday. It also thanked members for responding to Thursday’s call to pack out the guild’s picket lines on Friday to demonstrate WGA muscle as talks reached the “2-yard line,” in the words of one veteran observer.
“The WGA and AMPTP met for bargaining on Friday and will meet again on Saturday,” read the message from the WGA’s negotiating committee. “Thank you for the wonderful show of support on the picket lines today! It means so much to us as we continue to work toward a deal that writers deserve.”
It’s understood that the executives held a briefing call Friday afternoon with some of their counterparts at other companies. Sources said that overall Friday’s meeting ended on a positive note, in contrast to the atmosphere after Thursday’s session that stretched to nearly 8 p.m.
Multiple sources reported the sides began to get down to brass tacks on longstanding sticky issues in the late afternoon. The contract bargaining process, the source said, is in the slog phase of working out legal language that both sides can agree on. WGA sources reported there are still grave concerns about the potential for loopholes and outs to be woven into contract language in deal terms that are said to be groundbreaking in their construction.
It’s understood that the “success-based residual” that has been so crucial to the contract demands of WGA and SAG-AFTRA will be calcuated at least in part by whether a given title is watched by a pre-determined percentage of a given streamer or platform’s subscriber base. That would represent a new compensation metric for the WGA’s Minimum Basic Agreement contract — one built for an era when TV profits will be derived from direct-to-consumer subscription revenue rather than advertising sales and affiliate fees paid by middleman cable and satellite distributors.
The WGA has been on strike since May 2. Actors guild SAG-AFTRA joined the writers union on the picket lines July 14 following its own impasse in contract talks with AMPTP.
Key points that have prevented the WGA and AMPTP from inking an updated deal include disagreements on generative AI in the creative process, staff levels and minimum weeks of employment for episodic TV writers, streaming residuals and the long-sought “second step” guarantee for screenwriters to compensate for the pressure to deliver free outlines, drafts and polishes.
The WGA and AMPTP resumed negotiations on Sept. 20 for the first time in nearly a month. On Thursday evening, multiple sources said some last-minute issues arose regarding what the studio side viewed as new points brought to the table by the WGA. Talks continued until about 7:30 p.m., with plans made to resume Friday morning.
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