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Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Wednesday, September 20th, 2023
Everything you need to know about today's WGA/AMPTP negotiations & the many ways you are being spun.
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Wednesday, September 20th, 2023.
THIS IS HOW THE HOLLYWOOD TRADES COVERED TODAY'S WGA/AMPTP TALKS..AND HOW YOU'RE BEING SPUN
As the WGA strike has progressed, one refrain you commonly hear from the guild side is the refrain that some move is "right out of the AMPTP playbook." The observation usually centers around some moves the studio side had previously executed during previous strikes and while sometimes the connections can seem tenuous, it's important to note that more often than not, both sides do tend to make the moves they believe were effective during previous negotiations.
So while I won't say today's news coverage in the industry trades is "right out of the AMPTP playbook," it's fair to observe that we've seen this dance before.
In theory, both sides are in a press blackout during negotiations. But in recent weeks, that blackout has had some serious lapses. But one thing this negotiation has in common with previous strikes is that the studios are not shy about filling the news blackout with their own carefully placed take on the negotiations.
So as the two sides returned today for the first formal talks in weeks, several of the Hollywood trades posted stories highlighting how the "studios are taking today's negotiations seriously."
As is the case with most of Deadline's kitchen sink SEO-friendly headlines, "Studio Bosses Join Today’s WGA & AMPTP Talks; Sarandos, Iger, Langley & Zaslav In The Room, But No Gavin Newsom" seems to be trying to tell several different stories. But the primary one is that the CEOs are attending today's meeting and boy, are they serious:
"There’s an impetus to find a real pathway to an agreement now, and to close that [deal]," a studio insider told Deadline Wednesday. "The CEOs have to be directly engaged – to show the writers we’re serious."
To a certain extent, that statement gives you a perspective on how the studios see the negotiations. Or more specifically, how the CEOs see the negotiation process. Sure, AMPTP could simply negotiate in a way that would illustrate they are willing to make a deal. But having the CEOs there will make things all better.
As I've been reporting for weeks, the impact of the CEOs on the negotiations so far has been a mixed bag. They have the ability to make decisions and if the various major CEOs decided they were ready to make a deal, it would happen. But they have not been able to present a united front and even some of the back-channel talks with the WGA have been a bit chaotic, as each CEO has a slightly different take on what items should be negotiated and what the negotiating parameters should be.
That seems to be pretty much the take that Deadline's studio insider has as well:
Seeking to paper over divisions in their ranks in recent weeks, Wednesday’s active attendance by the CEO Gang of Four is by far from the first time the execs have gotten down and dirty in the bitter labor action. Along with the admittedly disastrous August 22 meeting with AMPTP chief Carol Lombardini and WGA negotiators Ellen Stutzman and others, Iger, Sarandos, Langley, Zaslav have been working their angles and back-channeling to various degrees — each with their own agenda in what is essentially an AMPTP board of directors.
And if you have any doubt that Deadline's studio source wants to emphasize the importance of the CEOs in the process, the site just posted a new story with the news that both sides have agreed to continue the talks tomorrow. The rest of the article is basically a greatest hits recap of what has happened so far. But it does include this almost laugh-inducing comment:
“This is what happens when principals get serious,” another well-positioned source noted. “Things start moving.”
This isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of the negotiating prowess of AMPTP president Carol Lombardini, who has been leading the AMPTP side of the negotiations.
The Hollywood Reporter posted its own version of today's meeting, and the headline "Studio CEOs Attend Latest Writers Guild Bargaining Session" certainly gets points for being concise and to the point.
This piece also includes similar "the CEOs are here to get serious framing, although it's much less heavy-handed than the Deadline take:
Disney CEO Bob Iger, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos and NBCUniversal Studio Group chairman and chief content officer Donna Langley were all present at the meeting that began around 10 a.m. PT, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. It’s highly unusual for the industry bargaining representative, the AMPTP, to include CEOs directly in bargaining sessions, which are usually led on the studio and streamer side by labor relations representatives and top AMPTP staffers. But the industry-wide crisis resulting from the ongoing writers and actors strikes has pushed company leaders to become more directly involved in talks.
The THR story has a couple of specific nuggets I hadn't seen elsewhere and based on what I've heard from other sources, it's pretty much on-point:
Said one studio-side source with knowledge of Wednesday’s negotiations, “CEOs have cleared their calendars and want to sit and have a real conversation.” This person added that the WGA submitted a list of issues in order of importance, from thorniest to least thorny, to the studio side prior to the meeting. “This is so long in coming; everyone’s feeling pain. Let’s get in there and nail things down,” the source said.
And this paragraph also includes the fact the CEOs will be returning to the negotiation table tomorrow, as opposed to the Deadline piece stating they "may" be back:
The meeting concluded in the late afternoon, with talks set to resume again on Thursday with all four CEOs present, according to a studio-side source.
One studio-side source says company leaders pregamed the negotiation in a Zoom prior to Wednesday’s bargaining session. “They feel the smaller the group, the more meaningful it will be. They want to get in a room and figure it all out,” this person said.
The Wrap's piece covering today's talks was pretty bare-boned. WGA Talks With Studios to Continue Thursday After 'Good Signs' in Meeting With CEOs was mostly a recap, with the story including a brief bit of commentary from the vaguely-sourced "two individuals with knowledge of the talks." Are they individuals from the studio side? Based on the comments, that's likely. Although, unlike its competitors, The Wrap's Jeremy Fuster didn't provide even that minor bit of attribution:
One of the individuals told TheWrap that discussions between the guild and studio CEOs who were present at the meeting, including Disney’s Bob Iger and NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley, were “a lot better” than their terse meeting on Aug. 22, which led to the AMPTP publicly releasing their counterproposal after the guild rebuffed the CEOs urging to take that offer.
“I think there’s even more urgency by the two sides to get a deal done than there was in August,” one insider said. “It’s still going to take many, many days of talks between the negotiators and all the labor lawyers to get this done. But having the people at the top serious about doing whatever it takes to get a deal is the most important thing.”
Variety's Gene Maddaus has faced some criticism from WGA members that his strike coverage leans toward the AMPTP direction. WGA Talks Will Continue Thursday After 'Encouraging' Session, doesn't read as particularly unfair, but it's clear that he has some solid studio sources:
The source said the WGA representatives spent the session mostly listening to new proposals put forward by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Chris Keyser, the co-chair of the WGA negotiating committee, also spoke at length about what the union needs in order to get a deal done.
The WGA is expected to return Thursday with some responses to the latest offers from the AMPTP. The source described the Wednesday session as “encouraging.”
The Variety piece ends with this reluctant piece of attribution which doesn't link out to the Hollywood Reporter, even though they are sister publications:
The Hollywood Reporter first reported the presence of Iger, Langley, Sarandos and Zaslav in the meeting.
And as long as we're making the tour of coverage tonight, TV Line just posted this really bare-bones piece, which included the statement about tomorrow's planned negotiations, along with a few sparse recap paragraphs. And am I being snarky to mention the site's top story on the front page is a poll asking voters to pick "TV's Most Divisive Love Triangles." So there is that.
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HERE'S MY TAKE
From what I know based on speaking with individuals from both sides this evening - some with direct knowledge of today's talks - the few details that have been posted in the trades are reasonably accurate.
I've heard some deeper details about the WGA comments as well as the studio point of view and since all of that is off the record, I won't say more. Although to be honest, I wouldn't say more in any case. This is a delicate time in the negotiations and my ego isn't so big that I need to insert myself into the story.
But I will say that from what I can tell, both sides seem to understand the other side's position pretty well and everyone wants to make a deal. This strike hasn't lasted this long because one side isn't being serious or because the CEOs (or some other "serious people") weren't in the room. The core issues that define this strike are complicated and hard. They are not going to be solved tomorrow. But it will come.
ONE LAST THING
Here is a comment just posted by CNBC's David Faber, who is also the anchor/reporter who did the infamous Bob Iger Sun Valley interview several months ago:
There are two things we know for sure, based on this tweet. Faber's sources are primarily on the studio side. And that the final warning is being delivered to exert a bit more public pressure for the WGA to settle. Because otherwise, the comment makes no sense. It HAS to be finalized tomorrow? Next week is too late?
I have heard some rumblings that if the studios don't feel as if progress is coming fast enough with the WGA, they might pivot and let the writers stew for a while as AMPTP reaches out to SAG-AFTRA negotiators. This warning given to Faber certainly sounds like an excuse to do just that.
ODDS AND SODS
* Season three of Slow Horses is premiering Friday, December 1st on Apple TV+. Although this is technically sort-of season two. Since Apple TV+ ordered a full season order of the series, then split it in half to make two separate seasons. A move which you generally only see with animated shows.
* And in the category of "well, maybe karma is a thing," just days after Sherri Shepard said she will continue her daytime talker because she doesn't use WGA writers, she has announced her show's production will be on pause because she has COVID.
WHAT'S NEW TODAY AND TOMORROW:
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20TH:
* American Horror Story: Delicate Part One (FX)
* Avoidance Series Premiere (Britbox)
* Hard Broken Series Premiere (Netflix)
* Marvel Studios' Assembled: The Making Of Secret Invasion (Disney+)
* Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal Season Two Premiere (Netflix)
* Naked Attraction Series Premiere (Discovery+)
* Skin In The Game With Dr. Ibram X. Kendi Series Premiere (ESPN)
* The D’Amelio Show (Hulu)
* The Super Models (Apple TV+)
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21ST:
* All-Star Shore (MTV)
* Amazon Music Live Season Two Premiere (Prime Video)
* Interrogation Raw (A&E)
* Jaane Jaan (Netflix)
* Kengan Ashura (Netflix)
* Love & Murder: Atlanta Playboy (Part One) (BET+)
* Scissor Seven (Netflix)
* Sex Education Season Premiere (Netflix)
* Young Love Series Premiere (Max)
Click Here to see the list of all of the upcoming premiere dates for the next few months.
SEE YOU WEDNESDAY!
If you have any feedback, send it along to Rick@AllYourScreens.com and follow me on Twitter @aysrick.