Hollywood writers’ strikes were often long. The last one lasted 100 days.
NEW YORK — Late-night TV shows including “The Tonight Show” and “The Daily Show” will go off the air Tuesday as unionized writers, angered by wage cuts in the streaming era, went on strike for the first time in 15 years.
About 11,500 film and television writers represented by the Writers Guild of America have put down their pens and laptops after failing to secure a new contract with the trade association that represents Hollywood studios and production companies.
The labor dispute could have a cascading effect on TV and film production depending on how long the strike lasts, and it comes at a time when streaming services are under increasing pressure from Wall Street to show profits.
Late-night television was the first to feel the effects, as it did during the 2007 writers’ strike that lasted 100 days.
All the major late-night shows, which employ writers who write monologues and jokes for their hosts, immediately went into oblivion. NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” Comedy Central’s “Daily Show,” ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, CBS’s “The Late Show” and NBC’s “Late Night” are all scheduled to repeat during the week.
NBC has not commented on plans for “Saturday Night Live.” A new episode of the sketch show is scheduled to air Saturday on Pete Davidson.
“Everyone, including me, hopes that both sides will reach a deal. But I also think the writers’ demands are not unreasonable,” host Stephen Colbert said on Monday’s “Late Show.”
“This nation owes a lot to unions,” Colbert said. “Unions are the reason we have the weekend, and by extension why we have TGI on Fridays.”
The impact of the strike on scripted TV series and films will take longer to see; those with finished scripts are allowed to continue filming. During the 2007 strike, the late-night hosts eventually returned to the air and improvised their way through the show.
One night’s show will not be overshadowed. “Gutfeld!” Fox News Fox announced Tuesday that it will continue to air new episodes with Greg Gutfeld.
The Writers Guild is seeking a higher minimum wage, less staffed writers’ offices, shorter exclusive contracts and a review of residual pay — all conditions it says have been eroded by the content boom fueled by streaming.
“The companies’ conduct has created a gig economy in the unionized workforce,” the WGA said in a statement.
Picket lines were planned for Tuesday in Los Angeles and New York, including outside a Manhattan building where NBCUniversal is holding an event for advertisers of its Peacock streaming service.
In Los Angeles, the writers plan to hold a demonstration near the offices of Walt Disney Co., Netflix, Amazon, Universal, Warner Bros., Paramount, CBS and Sony.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents studios and production companies, said it presented a proposal with “a generous increase in compensation for screenwriters as well as improvements to streaming residuals.”
In a statement, the trade association said it was willing to improve its proposal “but is reluctant to do so due to the number of other proposals still on the table that the guild continues to push for.”
The shutdown had been widely predicted for months. Writers last month overwhelmingly voted to authorize the strike, which is supported by 98% of members. Writers say their salaries are not keeping up with inflation, TV numbers have been cut too much and the old calculation of how balances are paid must be reworked.
Broadcasting has increased the number of TV series and movies produced each year, which means more jobs for screenwriters. But writers say they’re making less than they used to, working under more stressful conditions.
Guild wants more compensation for writers. That’s because many of the pay writers that historically generated back-end revenue — such as syndication and international licensing — were largely shut out with the advent of streaming.
More writers—about half—are receiving the minimum wage, a 16% increase over the past decade.
The Hollywood Trade Association said Monday that the main points of the agreement were about so-called mini-rooms — the guild seeks a minimum number of scribes per writer’s room — and the length of employment contracts.
The guild said writers needed more flexibility when they signed contracts for series, which tended to be shorter than the once-standard season of 20-plus episodes.
Many studios and production companies are cutting costs. The Walt Disney Co eliminating 7,000 jobs. Warner Bros. Discovery is cutting costs to reduce debt. Netflix has pumped breaks in rising costs.
It will take longer to affect movies, and if the strike continues into the summer, fall TV schedules could be altered. Meanwhile, the lack of authors available for rewriting can greatly affect quality.
The James Bond film Quantum of Solace was one of many films thrown into production during the 2007-2008 strike with what Daniel Craig called a “bare script”.
“I tried to rewrite the scenes – and I’m not a writer,” Craig later said.
With the long-awaited departure, writers rushed to get scripts and studios scrambled to prepare their pipelines to keep churning out content, at least for the short term.
“We’re assuming the worst from a business perspective,” David Zaslav, chief executive of Warner Bros., said last month. Discovery. “We have prepared. We had a lot of content that was produced.”
Foreign TV series can also fill the void. “We have a huge pipeline of upcoming shows and movies from around the world,” Ted Sarandas, Netflix’s co-chief executive, said on the company’s earnings call in April.
However, the WGA strike may just be the beginning. Both the Directors Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA contracts expire in June. Some of the same concerns surrounding the streaming business model will factor into these negotiations. DGA is set to start negotiations with AMPTP on May 10.
AP Media Writer David Bowder in New York contributed to this report.