Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Friday, September 8th, 2023
The real cost of the Hollywood strikes
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Friday, September 8th, 2023.
THE WGA PROVIDES A NEGOTIATION UPDATE
In what seems to be a new Friday tradition for the WGA, the union negotiators released an update to WGA members, and depending on how you read it, you'll either feel hopeful or even more confused.
Here is the text of the letter, in full:
We know that people are anxious for information about the status of the negotiation—and how difficult it can be to stay strong during periods of silence—which is only exacerbated by the companies’ recent attempts to make an end run around the negotiating committee and confuse the narrative. What follows is an update on where we are and how we got here. We share things we have not shared up until now, including conversations with individual executives that illustrate how some of the companies can already see a path toward making a deal, while other members of the AMPTP are not there yet.
In the 130 days since the WGA strike began, the AMPTP has only offered one proposal to the WGA, on August 11th . Since then, the companies have not moved off that proposal even though the WGA in turn presented our own counterproposal to the AMPTP on August 15th . The current standstill is not a sign of the companies’ power, but of AMPTP paralysis.
The studios and streamers bargaining together through the AMPTP have disparate business models and interests, as well as different histories and relationships with unions. They are competitors in all respects, except when they band together to deal with Hollywood labor. Through the AMPTP, these legacy studios and streamers negotiate as a united front which allows hard liners to dictate the course of action for all the companies. The AMPTP purports to represent all of these disparate corporate interests, but in practice administers a system that favors inflexibility over compromise, and sacrifices the interests of individual companies in reaching a deal. That regression to the hardest line has produced the first simultaneous strikes since 1960.
In contrast, during individual conversations with legacy studio executives in the weeks since SAG-AFTRA went on strike, we have heard both the desire and willingness to negotiate an agreement that adequately addresses writers’ issues. One executive said they had reviewed our proposals, and though they did not commit to a specific deal, said our proposals would not affect their company’s bottom line and that they recognized they must give more than usual to settle this negotiation. Another said they needed a deal badly. Those same executives—and others—have said they are willing to negotiate on proposals that the AMPTP has presented to the public as deal breakers. On every single issue we are asking for we have had at least one legacy studio executive tell us they could accommodate us.
So, while the intransigence of the AMPTP structure is impeding progress, these behind-the-scenes conversations demonstrate there is a fair deal to be made that addresses our issues. Given the outsized economic impact of the strikes on the legacy companies, their individual studio interest in making a deal isn’t surprising. Warner Bros. confirmed this in a public financial filing just this week.
We have made it clear that we will negotiate with one or more of the major studios, outside the confines of the AMPTP, to establish the new WGA deal. There is no requirement that the companies negotiate through the AMPTP. So, if the economic destabilization of their own companies isn’t enough to cause a studio or two or three to either assert their own self-interest inside the AMPTP, or to break away from the broken AMPTP model, perhaps Wall Street will finally make them do it.
Until there is a breakthrough, the companies and AMPTP will try to sow doubt and internal guild dissension. Keep your radar up. When the companies send messages through surrogates or the press about the unreasonableness of your guild leadership, take those messages as part of a bad-faith effort to influence negotiations and not as the objective truth.
The companies know the truth: they must negotiate if they want to end the strike. They may not like it-they may try to obscure it-but they know it. While they wrestle with that fact and with each other, they will continue attempting to get writers to settle for less than what we need and deserve, and encourage us to negotiate with ourselves. But we are not going to do that.
Instead, the companies inside the AMPTP who want a fair deal with writers must take control of the AMPTP process itself, or decide to make a deal separately. At that point, a resolution to the strike will be in reach.
We understand how painful this time is for everyone. We are all tired and hurting and scared. There is nothing wrong with saying so. The optimism for a return to negotiation has been met with a harsh reminder of how fraught this process can be. We share the frustration with how long the companies are prolonging the strike, and remain committed to negotiating a fair resolution as fast as possible.
In the meantime, as always, you can find your negotiating committee and board and council members out on the picket lines. When there is anything of significance to report, we will write again.
WGA Negotiating Committee
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A QUICK REACTION
Both myself and other industry journalists have been reporting for weeks that there continues to be talk of some companies splitting from the AMPTP negotiating stance to cut a deal for themselves. And as I have reported previously, even some people at Netflix apparently considered offering up a deal of their own.
Part of the problem is that "legacy studios" is a bit of a mushy description for some of these companies. Generally speaking, streaming-centric companies have very different asks in any potential deal than companies that are a mix of streaming and legacy assets. But except for maybe NBCUniversal and Sony, all of the other "legacy" studios have enough of a presence in original content that any major changes in the cost structure of SVOD original productions would hit their bottom line quite substantially.
And the companies with a healthy theatrical film business - Warner Bros. Discovery, Paramount Global, Sony, NBCUniversal - are likely to continue to push back against some of the WGA proposals that impact them the hardest.
I continue to hear that back-channel talks have been happening and I hope it brings some progress. Honestly, I am going to be as surprised as anyone to see how this shakes out.
THE REAL COST OF THE HOLLYWOOD STRIKES
I know what it's like to feel as if everything you've worked so hard to accomplish is just going to just slip away into the darkness. Maybe 10-12 years ago I was laid off three times in less than two years. I was someone with a set of skills that didn't have much of a market at the time and no matter how hard I tried, no matter how desperately I fretted, there didn't seem to be a solution. It wasn't just the resulting money problems, it was everything that financial chaos brought into my life. The pain it caused, the emptiness in your soul that comes from having the people who love you lose faith in your ability to make things right.
As these WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes continue, I am beginning to hear stories that bring back a lot of PTSD for me. People on the precipice, struggling to survive when they have no clue how long these strikes might last. Or whether they'll be able to find a job when this is all over.
"The first night we slept in our new house, my wife and I slept on a mattress on the floor because we hadn't moved anything else in," one mid-level writer recently told me. "I lay there next to her, staring at the ceiling and I told her that the previous ten years or so of struggling was worth it. 'This is our place,' I told her. It represents what we made together."
This writer had just put the house on the market. He and his wife are both out of work due to the strikes and without an end point in sight, they decided to walk away from their dream home while they still had some options. "We've blown through our savings and cut corners everywhere," he told me, in the voice of a man who had been crushed. "But if we sell now and rent, we'll at least walk away with something. And we won't spend every night worrying how we're going to scrape up the money for our next bill."
A lower-level writer I spoke with was hesitant to share many details of what she has been going through. But once she started talking, she didn't want to stop and she walked me through some of the things she's had to do over the past few weeks. "I went to a food bank for the first time in my life last week and when I sat in my car afterward, I started sobbing and couldn't stop," she told me. "It wasn't because I was sad or embarrassed. I was crying because it meant so much to me to get this stuff. Half of which I wouldn't eat in normal times. But the realization that someone was helping me out, someone cared about me...I just lost it."
An actor I spoke with told me had just split with his girlfriend of three years and it was at least indirectly a byproduct of the SAG-AFTRA strike. "She's not in the business, she doesn't really understand much about it," he told me. "And she kept telling me that the strike was maybe the universe's way of telling me to move on and do something else with my life. At some point, I just realized that we weren't compatible on a level that wasn't apparent when things were going well."
The thing that struck me about these stories and all the other ones I've been hearing is that I haven't spoken to one person who thought the unions should settle and go back to work without getting a better deal. "It would feel like all of this was in vain," another writer in her thirties told me. "At this point, with this amount of pain, I need a deal to feel like this was all worth it somehow."
And I don't get a sense that the CEOs and studio heads driving the AMPTP negotiating stance truly comprehend this level of commitment. "I'm at a low point right now and I have this despair I can't shake, a VP at one of the streamers told me this week. "It just feels as if the people leading us believe a deal can be made if they tweak their offer a percent or two. It's so much deeper than that and it scares the shit out of me that our executives don't seem to see that."
And for those of you going through rough times, it will get better. I can't tell you when, but it will happen. And if you need to vent or tell me your story, I'm ready to listen.
WHAT'S NEW TODAY AND THIS WEEKEND:
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 8TH, 2023:
* All Or Nothing: The National Team In Qatar (Prime Video)
* A Time Called You (Netflix)
* Blood Flower (Shudder)
* Burning Body (Netflix)
* Convicting A Murderer Series Premiere (Daily Wire+)
* Guiding Emily (HMM)
* How To Date Billy Walsh (Prime Video)
* Minx Season Two Finale (Starz)
* Pokémon: To Be A Pokémon Master: Ultimate Journeys: The Series: Part One (Netflix)
* Rosa Peral's Tapes (Netflix)
* Self Reliance (Hulu)
* Selling The O.C. Season Premiere (Netflix)
* Sitting In Bars With Cake (Prime Video)
* Spy Ops Series Premiere (Netflix)
*The Changeling Series Premiere (Apple TV+)
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 9TH, 2023:
* Fourth Down And Love (Hallmark)
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 10TH, 2023:
* Dreaming Whilst Black Series Premiere (Showtime)
* Football Night In America Season Premiere (NBC)
* Ride With Norman Reedus Season Premiere (AMC)
* Sunday Night Football Season Premiere (NBC)
* The Masked Singer (Fox)
* The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon Series Premiere (AMC)
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 11TH, 2023:
* Monday Night Football Season Premiere (ABC/ESPN)
Click Here to see the list of all of the upcoming premiere dates for the next few months.
SEE YOU MONDAY!
If you have any feedback, send it along to Rick@AllYourScreens.com and follow me on Twitter @aysrick.