EXCLUSIVE: Regardless of whether SAG-AFTRA goes on strike this week, the studios have no intention of sitting down with the Writers Guild for several more months.

“I think we’re in for a long strike, and they’re going to let it bleed out,” said one industry veteran intimate with the POV of studio CEOs.

With the scribes’ strike now finishing its 71st day and the actors’ union just 30 hours from a possible labor action of its own, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are planning to dig in hard this fall before even entertaining the idea of more talks with the WGA, I’ve learned. “Not Halloween precisely, but late October, for sure, is the intention,” says a top-tier producer close to the Carol Lombardini-run AMPTP.

While some dismiss this as just “cynical strike talk,” studio and streamer sources around town confirm the strategy. They also confirm that the plan to grind down the guild has long been in the works for a labor cycle that all sides agree is a game-changer one way or another for Hollywood.

“It’s been agreed to for months, even before the WGA went out,” one executive said. “Nobody wanted a strike, but everybody knew this was make or break.”

RELATED: What Happens To Hollywood (And Beyond) If The Actors Go On Strike

Receiving positive feedback from Wall Street since the WGA went on strike May 2, Warner Bros Discovery, Apple, Netflix, Amazon, Disney, Paramount and others have become determined to “break the WGA,” as one studio exec blatantly put it.  

To do so, the studios and the AMPTP believe that by October most writers will be running out of money after five months on the picket lines and no work.

“The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses,” a studio executive told Deadline. Acknowledging the cold-as-ice approach, several other sources reiterated the statement. One insider called it “a cruel but necessary evil.”

The studios and streamers’ next think financially strapped writers would go to WGA leadership and demand they restart talks before what could be a very cold Christmas. In that context, the studios and streamers feel they would be in a position to dictate most of the terms of any possible deal.

RELATED: SAG-AFTRA Preparing Picket Signs As Possible Strike Looms

The severe method comes out of the guild’s successful battle with the agencies in 2021 over dismantling the lucrative practice of packaging. The WGA picked off one agency after another until final holdout WME backed down, a tactic seen as a warning sign by many in the studio and streamer C-suites.

Convinced that “giving in,” as another insider put it, to the writers will result in every contract cycle from the WGA, IATSE, the Teamsters and more ending in a strike, the AMPTP is aiming for the bottom line.

Since the WGA called its first strike in 15 years in early May, there have been no discussions between the AMPTP and the guild despite persistent public guild offers to meet. Sources close to the AMPTP insist there has been no direct offer from the WGA leadership to resume talks.

Still, as pickets went up and productions shut down in the strike’s early weeks, studio bosses almost uniformly offered banal praise to the writers but no public proposals to get the them back to work. In the meantime, as network schedules shift to unscripted shows and streamers buy up foreign content, the studios and streamers have been saving money on shuttered productions and cost-cutting.

On a parallel track and reinforcing the AMPTP’s divide-and-conquer approach, negotiations with the Director’s Guild in late May proved a success, with ratification coming last month. Even if the 160,000-member SAG-AFTRA joins the WGA on the picket lines, the studios hope to get the actors back to the negotiating table in a few weeks.

A new SAG-AFTRA deal would not see production restart, but it could allow actors to promote projects already set for release. A move that studios hope would further the WGA going into the latter part of the year.

Neither the AMPTP nor the WGA responded to request for comment today from Deadline. If or when they do we will update this post.


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