Done Deal: Here Is What’s in the New WGA Contract and What It Means
After 148 days on strike, Hollywood writers are returning to work. The Writers Guild of America set the end to its work stoppage for midnight tonight, meaning scribes can resume pitching ideas, selling scripts, and reconvening in writers rooms as soon as Wednesday.
The second-longest writers strike in Hollywood history began May 2 and ended after a marathon five-day negotiation session that included participation from top studio leaders including Bob Iger and Ted Sarandos. The guild has released details of its tentative agreement with Hollywood studios and streamers and will now give its 11,500 members until October 9 to vote on whether they want to ratify the contract.
The leadership of both branches of the WGA voted unanimously to recommend the new three-year contract, which is likely to win approval. In an email to members on Sunday night, the WGA Negotiating Committee called the deal “exceptional” and pointed to “meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership.” Writers won concessions in several key areas, including establishing viewership-based streaming bonuses and rules around the use of artificial intelligence. But they also had to make some compromises, including accepting smaller salary minimum raises. “It was a give and take on both sides,” says a source with knowledge of the deal.
Since the beginning of the strike, writers have been asking for more transparency about viewership for their shows on streaming services like Netflix and Disney+, and for bonus payments when their shows perform well. As part of the deal, companies that operate a streaming service will provide the WGA with the total number of hours viewed, both domestically and internationally, of original streaming series. And beginning next year, the companies will pay a bonus on any made-for-streaming show or movie that is viewed by at least 20% of a streaming service’s domestic subscriber base in the first 90 days of release.
On the issue of artificial intelligence, the two sides agree that AI can’t write or rewrite a script, and AI-generated material will not be considered source material. Further, a writer can choose to use AI with company approval, but a company cannot require that a writer use AI software. The studios retained the ability to train AI using film and TV scripts, but gave writers the right to challenge that use in the future.
The WGA and AMPTP also reached an agreement on establishing minimum staffing for writers rooms, which became a hot-button issue during the strike, particularly for less established writers who were worried that the increasing use of shorter, smaller rooms known as mini-rooms would limit job opportunities. (Conversely, some showrunners and other upper-level writers worried that writer-room minimums would mean that they’d have to hire junior writers at the expense of more seasoned contributors.) Under the new contract, the number of writers will increase in proportion to a show’s number of episodes—unless a single writer is hired to write all episodes. For example, a six-episode show that has been greenlit would require at least three writers, while a 10-episode show would need at least five.
“This is the biggest contract we’ve won in decades,” says comedian and WGA board member Adam Conover, who also serves on the guild’s negotiating committee. “It’s also precedent-setting. We won terms that we are going to improve every three years, for instance with the success-based streaming residual.” The WGA estimates that the deal is worth $233 million annually, nearly three times the value of the AMPTP’s original proposal.
With writers returning to work, Hollywood will scramble to restart productions that had been shelved for nearly five months. There’s likely to be an influx of scripts that writers and their agents have been waiting to pitch. And writers rooms that had been shut down—or never even convened—will soon start up with the hopes of getting scripts done before the end of the year. The actors are still on strike, but many people in the industry are hoping that the WGA deal will lead to a quick resolution of that work stoppage as well. Soundstages are already booking up in preparation.