5 Things: Studios Reach Tentative Agreement with Writers 2:40
(CNN) -- The Writers Guild of America (WGA) is in an understandable festive mood as it nears the end of one of the longest strikes in its history, after holding firm — and joining the actors — to win major concessions from major studios and streaming services.
Details of the deal remain undisclosed, but WGA leadership called the three-year proposal "exceptional." In that regard, he told his members that the interim contract, which has yet to be ratified, addressed the concerns of all its members, from film to television, from veterans to neophytes.
- Hollywood Studios and Writers Reach Tentative Agreement to End Strike
The studios have yet to reach an agreement with the actors, but both workers and management are closer to putting this painful five-month chapter behind them and getting Hollywood back to work. However, that won't solve the underlying issues facing the entertainment industry that prompted unions to take this step, including the sea change brought about by streaming, one of the reasons some referred to this strike as "the Netflix strike."
Group of writers in front of the Netflix offices on May 2. (Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)
While talent may be satisfied with better and fairer remuneration, the sad reality is that there may be fewer opportunities, as the days of "TV primetime" seem destined to give way to adjustment and greater selectivity.
These warnings should not detract from the achievements of writers and actors, who were united in the belief that they had to take a stand and address fundamental issues around streaming — including residual payments for their work and minimums on the number of writers employing TV shows — to avoid going through the same thing again in another three or six years.
In that sense, the anonymous studio executive who spoke to the website Deadline about prolonging the strike to get the guilds to give in under the weight of financial pain, clearly miscalculated, looking like a Bond villain, and giving writers and actors poster material to infuriate and motivate them.
Protesters carry signs during the WGA strike in New York City in May. (Photo: Leonardo Muñoz/AFP via Getty Images)
Whatever the outcome of this battle, there are signs that Hollywood is losing the war. And the vital third part of the equation — entertainment consumers — could lose out if they are asked to pay more for the content they watch while receiving potentially fewer options.
Some of these problems were foreseeable, but others were not. Streaming and a pandemic (which contributed to the growth of streaming services) have combined to siphon money away from traditional TV and movie theaters. Now that streaming growth is slowing, revenue from new subscribers doesn't fully offset the losses.
So while Hollywood may celebrate the success of "Barbie" and "Oppenheimer" this summer, enthusiasm for the "return of cinema" has been dampened by expensive box office "tents" that have floundered their big budgets, such as "The Flash" and "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny."
Disputes between companies such as Disney and Charter Communications over cable channel rates have led to other tensions, such as the temporary blackout of Disney-owned ESPN and other networks, as Charter struggled to maintain costs amid a steady trend of cable and satellite subscribers to stop using cable.
As for writers' fight for greater transparency about streaming audiences so they can share in the success of big titles, even that could be a double-edged sword if, as Bloomberg's Lucas Shaw wrote, streaming services start "being more cautious with their spending. That's bad for the creative class."
So were there "winners" and "losers" in the writers' strike? A few, although most come with caveats and asterisks. Let's take stock:
The WGA: The slogan "WGA Strong" turned out to be more than a hashtag, as the guild maintained its solidarity – with the help of SAG and other industry quadrants – in the fight for what its members consider a fair wage. However, if the deal hastens the end of TV's "heyday," that could mean less work and hollowing out aspects of what looks like a victory over time.
The AMPTP: Member companies (including CNN parent Warner Bros. Discovery) saw their public image taken a beating, with guilds rallying support and painting their CEOs as the bad guys in the PR war. The studios saved money on production in the short term and could plan more cuts in the coming months.
Oscar campaigns: Perhaps the clearest winner. Writers and actors have refused to promote their work during the strike, so publicists are eager to see them back on red carpets ahead of awards season.
Traditional television: The big networks can't afford to do anything that encourages viewers to seek their entertainment elsewhere. To the extent that the strike left their fall schedules relatively empty, it was a loss for them and a gift to streaming services.
Streaming: Although they may have saved money during the strike, the WGA seems to have obtained a key concession that will allow them to share in the success of streaming hits. The big question now is: Will streamers be able to charge more or sell enough advertising to offset their slow growth?
The Directors Guild of America: Perhaps the forgotten loser in this cycle, having quickly agreed to a deal with the studios in June, in a way that overlooked or ignored the momentum behind their guild brethren in their fight for more meaningful and historic change.
Drew Barrymore and Bill Maher: Your announcements that you would return to host your shows without writers provoked hostility from those at the protests. Although each of them backtracked — and Barrymore made an apology — will there be lingering effects in terms of guest bookings? Probably not, but stay tuned.
The consumer: During the strike there was no noticeable shortage of entertainment content, but after 146 days of interruption of production, in the coming months there will be some spacing in the supply of films and television programs. What's really important: We will almost certainly all have to pay more for what we see, wherever and however we see it.