(Updated with WGA statement) The Writers Guild brass and studios CEOs were working Friday night to close a deal to end the scribes’ strike, but it seems they aren’t quite there yet.
Running from around 11 a.m. to 8:45 p.m., the third day of direct talks between the WGA negotiating committee and the heads of Disney, NBCUniversal, Netflix and Warner Bros Discovery has ended without a tentative agreement for a new three-year contract. While the two sides were able to find accord on a number of issues, a solution acceptable to all on matters like AI and writers rooms’ minimum staffing levels has eluded the negotiators so far, we hear.
However, while nothing was etched in stone, it does appear Bob Iger, Donna Langley, Ted Sarandos and David Zaslav and the other principals are open to reconvening at some point over the weekend. In fact, the CEO Gang of Four, AMPTP chief Carol Lombardini and the WGA’s Ellen Stutzman, David Goodman and Chris Keyser will sit down again as soon as tomorrow it seems.
“The WGA and AMPTP met for bargaining on Friday and will meet again on Saturday,” the guild confirmed in a note sent out to members at 9:41 pm. “Thank you for the wonderful show of support on the picket lines today! It means so much to us as we continue to work toward a deal that writers deserve. “
There is a “determination to get this done before the [Jewish] holiday,” an insider told Deadline of the impetus behind talks happening sooner rather than later. Yom Kippur runs from sundown Sunday, September 24 to sundown Monday, September 25 this year.
After 100 days of no talks after the WGA called its first strike in 15 years on May 2, the fact that the CEO Gang of Four have been directly engaged this week was already a leap forward. The speed at which the deliberations in August quickly crashed and burned made it apparent that Iger, Langley, Sarandos and Zaslav needed to be in the room this time round to address the WGA’s proposals head on.
The stalemate is certainly frustrating to those in the room at the AMPTP’s Sherman Oaks offices, those on the picket lines today, and almost everyone else in Los Angeles County that have been hit hard economically, but this latest punt shouldn’t come as a great surprise. Labor negotiations are often fluid, even more so in this situation where a 20th century labor-relations formula is being transformed into a 21st century talent-relations agenda in real time in a vastly shifting industry.
Case in point: Well into the afternoon of September 21, the CEOs and the WGA team anticipated that they would shut down talks around 4:30 p.m. PT without a final deal. The plan being bandied around was for everyone to come back on September 26. The fact that the parties decided to continue talking on Thursday night was more a beneficial by-product of momentum than scheduling.
After a bit of a slow burn this morning, a lot of that momentum from last night re-emerged but, with some complex numbers and mechanisms in play, it was not enough to get to the finish line.
If, with a short overnight break, this can be replicated by the CEOs and WGA negotiators tomorrow or before sundown Sunday, this strike may come to an end in the couple of weeks after members ratify it. The minutiae of how the strike winds down and when the writers would return to work has been a topic of discussion in the negotiations.
As it is, the lack of almost any productions due to the WGA strike, and the prolonged SAG-AFTRA strike, the finances of entertainment worker are being hit hard and its taking its toll on the overall industry. The box office this weekend is bound to hit an absolute low for 2023, under February 10-12’s puny $52.6 million haul.
More widely, the state of California, and L.A. County specifically, is experiencing an estimated $5 billion blow from the strikes. It’s not just entertainment workers that have been hit; restaurant workers, the trucking industry, prop houses and lumber providers are also really feeling it in their wallets and the fallout will pummel government coffers too.
Now in its 144th day, the WGA strike is fast approaching the longest walkout by writers: the 154 days that they struck for in 1988. SAG-AFTRA, which will have to come to their own deal with the AMPTP once the WGA settles, has currently been on strike for 71 days.