Will your favorite shows suffer from the writers strike? Here’s everything you should know
Here’s what this year’s writers strike means for you and your favorite TV shows
It’s Day 2 of the Writers Guild of America strike, and there are already reports of popular shows, including “Saturday Night Live,” going on hiatus, according to the Los Angeles Times.
While the writers guild has made its demands known — better pay and health care in light of the streaming age, among others — only time will tell if the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers will meet the demands.
If history repeats itself, this writers strike could last 100 days or more, if the 2007 writers strike is any indication. Here’s everything you need to know about the 2023 writers strike — and how it could affect your favorite TV shows.
What caused the writers strike?
In a tweet from Monday, the Writers Guild of America revealed that over 11,000 writers “voted unanimously to call a strike.” They started picketing on Tuesday, as the Deseret News previously reported.
The strike began because the guild failed to make a “new pay agreement” with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents “Netflix, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery and other streaming platforms,” per Observer.
The Board of Directors of the @WGAwest and the Council of the @WGAeast, acting upon the authority granted to them by their memberships, have voted unanimously to call a strike, effective 12:01 AM, Tuesday, May 2.— Writers Guild of America West (@WGAWest) May 2, 2023
According to USA Today, “Writers are primarily looking for more compensation, with many pointing to the rise of streaming as having a negative effect on their earnings.” The group argues that the rise of streaming services has forced writers to work “longer for less pay.”
In a report released by the guild entitled “Writers Are Not Keeping Up,” the group states: “On TV staffs, more writers are working at minimum regardless of experience, often for fewer weeks, or in mini-rooms, while showrunners are left without a writing staff to complete the season. And while series budgets have soared over the past decade, median writer-producer pay has fallen.”
Writers strike 2023 demands
According to Vulture, the writers guild has made multiple demands, including “increased minimum compensation in all areas of media, increased residuals, appropriate TV series-writing compensation from pre- to postproduction, increased contributions to pension and health plans, the strengthening of professional standards and the overall protections for writers, and more.”
How much do TV writers make?
According to Variety, staff writers, or “the lowest-paid roles” according to CBS News, usually make $131,834 annually for an average of 29 weeks on a network show. Writers on streaming shows make significantly less — $90,920 for an average of 20 weeks. Writer-producers make $6,967 weekly.
How long will the writers strike last?
At this point, it’s hard to say — it depends on when and if negotiations between the guild and big Hollywood studios play out.
According to CBS News, writers strikes have historically lasted around or over 100 days. In 1988, “a WGA strike lasted 153 days.” The most recent writers guild strike, in 2007, lasted 100 days and went into 2008.
What happened during the 2007 writers strike?
In 2007, the organization went on strike over “royalties from DVD sales,” per The Independent. As previously mentioned, the strike lasted for 100 days and continued in 2008. According to The Independent, “Nearly 25% of primetime scripted programming over that period was lost completely.”
Many companies shifted to reality TV and other unscripted TV shows. Some scripted shows brought on nonunion writers, including “General Hospital” and “Power Rangers,” according to The Independent.
Other shows were forced to shorten seasons or go on hiatus altogether. Popular shows that were impacted by the writers strike include “Ugly Betty,” “30 Rock,” “Breaking Bad,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Heroes” and much more.
In fact, fans of the show “Heroes” “blame the turbulence of the work stoppage for the poor reception of the show’s second season,” per The Independent.
“how bad could a writers strike make things?” well buddy let me tell you a cautionary tale called pic.twitter.com/33p8Qb33qt— LAUREN ASH (@laurenashastro) May 2, 2023
Multiple late night shows that went on hiatus during the initial two months of the strike chose to air episodes without writers. According to The Independent, Conan O’Brien of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” was “praised for his solidarity with the striking writers,” emphasizing the lack of writers by performing silly and stripped-down bits, like timing how long his wedding ring could spin on his desk.
A few shows were even canceled due to the writers strike — “more than a dozen,” per The Independent — such as “Bionic Woman” and “Notes from the Underbelly.”
The writers strike finally ended when the writers guild and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television “struck a deal” 100 days after the strike started, according to The Independent.
What TV shows are affected by the writers strike?
According to the Los Angeles Times, late night talk shows are the first to be impacted, including “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “Late Night With Seth Meyers” and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.” Talk shows on cable networks are also going to be impacted, such as “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” and “Real Time With Bill Maher.”
Per The Los Angeles Times, “Colbert, Fallon, Kimmel and Meyers have already openly agreed to pause production on their shows, which will revert to reruns on Tuesday until further notice. Maher and Oliver’s shows will go dark immediately, with no reruns scheduled.”
Talk shows aren’t the only TV that’s affected — “Saturday Night Live” will officially be going dark, and will air repeats until further notice, per the Los Angeles Times.
If the writers strike drags out, your favorite TV shows might suffer. Writers on popular shows such as “Abbott Elementary,” “Stranger Things” and more have joined the writers strike, per the Los Angeles Times. This means that TV series, soap operas and even movie productions might halt “as the reserve of completed scripts runs low.”
Does the writers strike affect Netflix?
As mentioned above, some writers on Netflix shows have joined the strike. According to Observer, co-CEO Ted Sarandos said that Netflix doesn’t want a strike, but he’s not concerned about the strike’s impact on the streaming service.
Sarandos said that “we do have a pretty robust slate of releases to take us into a long time. We could probably serve our members better than most.”
Others, however, aren’t convinced. As Jason Squire, professor at the University of Southern California film school and the host of the Movie Business podcast, told Observer, “Netflix could be fine, but will they be in six months?”
“This is a central issue that could end up in a long strike. It is bad for everyone, including Netflix.”
What have celebrities said about the writers strike?
Many actors, writers, producers and other Hollywood executives have expressed solidarity with the WGA, per Variety. Here’s what a few have said.
Actor Rob Lowe joined the writers picketing outside the Paramount lot in Los Angeles, saying, “We’re only as good as the writing we get.”
Rob Lowe on the picket line outside of the Paramount lot in LA today: “We’re only as good as the writing we get” #WritersStrike pic.twitter.com/x7UASNi1af— Deadline Hollywood (@DEADLINE) May 2, 2023
“We need to reimagine structurally how people of all levels can continue to make a living now that we have these streaming services. Actors who used to be able to live off residuals — can’t anymore because they get paid for one day. And it goes on a streaming service, and they don’t see a penny after.”
“It’s necessary. … I don’t get what the problem is. Everything changed with streaming, and everyone should be compensated for their work.”
Last night a lot of A-list celebs were asked if they support the writers' strike.— More Perfect Union (@MorePerfectUS) May 2, 2023
Jimmy Fallon said, "I wouldn't have a show if it wasn't for my writers, I support them all the way."
Who else supports the strike? Thread. pic.twitter.com/EjlRWiRXd3
“Whatever I can do to support the (Writers) Guild … I couldn’t do the show without them. I wouldn’t have a show if it wasn’t for my writers, I support them all the way.”
Writer and comedian Adam Conover has joined the writers picketing. Conover also criticized Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav during a CNN interview, per Variety.
“We’re fighting to stop the streamers and the studios from turning writing from a career into a gig job. They’re trying to take away our jobs and employ us one day a week like we’re Uber drivers…We’re fighting for fairness.”— DiscussingFilm (@DiscussingFilm) May 3, 2023
—Adam Conover; day 1 of the writers’ strike pic.twitter.com/83KA2BYWdm
“David Zaslav, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, the parent company of the network I’m talking to you on right now, was paid $250 million last year, a quarter of a billion dollars,” Conover said.
“That’s about the same level as what 10,000 writers are asking him to pay all of us collectively, alright. So I would say if you’re being paid $250 million — these companies are making enormous amounts of money. Their profits are going up. It’s ridiculous for them to plead poverty.”
Writer, actor and producer John Leguizamo said, “I stand with all my fellow writers because they deserve what they are asking for and none of it is unreasonable. All the profits are in streaming, and we are not sharing in that wealth. I’m on tenterhooks not knowing what I will do with myself.”
Meyers addressed the writers strike during his show, per the Los Angeles Times. “Look, no one is entitled to a job in show business. But for those people who have a job in show business, they are entitled to fair compensation. They are entitled to make a living.”
More from Seth Meyers on the WGA strike:— DiscussingFilm (@DiscussingFilm) May 2, 2023
"I think it's a very reasonable demand that is being set out by the Guild, and I support those demands…the future of this business is dependent on storytellers." pic.twitter.com/vZqPNJyCFK
“I think it’s a very reasonable demand that is being set out by the guild, and I support those demands,” Meyers said. “But I also believe that everybody at the table right now, be it from the writer side or the studio side, knows that the future of this business is dependent on storytellers.”