A Guide to the 2023 Writers’ Strike and How It’ll Affect Your Favourite TV Shows

Getty / David McNew

A writers’ strike in Hollywood is officially happening and it threatens to disrupt the future of TV and movies as we know it. For the past few months, ongoing negotiations between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) led the WGA to vote yes to authorize a strike on May 1 (by a historical margin of 97.85 percent), which immediately went into effect the following day as an agreement could not be reached on their next three-year contract.

According to Variety, the call for a strike is the result of the WGA seeking changes to writer compensation and working conditions in Hollywood – including a “sizable increase in minimums, better formula for residuals on streaming platforms, and a minimum staffing requirement for all TV shows.”

On May 2, the Writers Guild of America West Twitter account announced that the strike has commenced after six weeks of negotiating with Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, NBC Universal, Paramount+, and Sony under the AMPTP’s umbrella. “Though our Negotiating Committee began this process intent on making a fair deal, the studios’ responses have been wholly insufficient given the existential crisis writers are facing,” the labor union wrote in another tweet.

TV writer David Slack later tweeted, “The Writers Guild has existed for 90 years. We’ve negotiated contracts with studios roughly every 3 years. With or without a strike, we’ve made a deal every time. If they could do without us, they would. If they could break us, they would. They can’t. They won’t. #WGAStrong.”

What happens during a writers’ strike you may ask? Well, writers who are members of the WGA – including their agents or anyone acting on their behalf – are prohibited from writing, pitching, or negotiating for work amid the strike. The purpose, according to the labor union, is to ensure the best possible contract for writers going forward.

The 2023 writers’ strike is largely fueled by the entertainment industry’s major shift to streaming content. While TV shows and movies have adjusted to the ever-growing tech era, one thing that hasn’t evolved is how studios pay creators. “The companies have used the transition to streaming to cut writer pay and separate writing from production, worsening working conditions for series writers at all levels,” the WGA shared in a March 14 bulletin. As a result, TV writer Danny Tolli told The New York Times, “Writers at every level and in every genre, whether it’s features or TV, we’re all being devalued and financially taken advantage of by the studios.”

So what does all this mean for the future of entertainment? Ahead, find a guide to the 2023 writers’ strike with all your biggest questions answered.

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What Is a Writers’ Strike?

According to Vox, a writers’ strike occurs when members of the WGA, the labor union that most employed writers in Hollywood belong to, stop working until the organization reaches an agreement with the AMPTP, which negotiates on behalf of all major studios and hundreds of production companies. Meaning, no members are allowed to write or sell new scripts for TV shows or movies until the WGA votes to end the strike. And in most cases, this also means writers go without pay for the duration of the strike.

A writers’ strike doesn’t just affect those who creatively contribute to TV shows or films, it also touches those who work in other sectors of the entertainment industry when production halts – including caterers, set dressers, directors, and background actors, who then have to find other work in the interim. And it also hits those at home, as TV shows are delayed or get shortened seasons abruptly.

When Was the Last Writers’ Strike?

The last time a writers’ strike of this magnitude happened was in late 2007 – which resulted in many scripted shows having their seasons shortened, some late-night programs being forced off the air, and a few reality shows getting longer or new seasons, per Vox. According to The Hollywood Reporter, that strike lasted 100 days, concluding on Feb. 12, 2008, and took a $2.1 billion toll on the Los Angeles economy. A new three-year contract was eventually approved by the WGA at the time, but streaming wasn’t a big part of that conversation. Now, it seems Hollywood studios still haven’t figured out how to factor those residuals into what writers earn today.

Why Is a Writers’ Strike Happening in 2023?

This year’s writers’ strike has been up in the air for months, with the Los Angeles Times reporting on its potential to happen back in February. According to The New York Times, writers are fighting for raises while studios argue that a new compensation structure ignores economic realities. At this point, writers and Hollywood companies haven’t been able to settle their differences, which is why the industry is experiencing its first writers’ strike in 15 years.

What Is the Writers Guild of America Demanding?

The main issue that writers are striking over is compensation, which, according to the WGA, has been negatively impacted by the recent streaming takeover. Writers’ demands also revolve around pay equity, residuals for theatrical and streaming features, better pre-production writers’ rooms, increased contributions to the WGA’s pension plan and health fund, and more measures to combat discrimination and harassment. For the full list of demands, visit the WGA’s 2023 contract website.

Which TV Shows Will Be Affected by the 2023 Writers’ Strike?

Now that the strike has gone into effect, all shows that produce immediate work will be affected. That means late-night talk shows like “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” and “The Daily Show” are all shutting down immediately starting on May 2, according to Deadline. All except “The Daily Show” will be airing reruns until further notice, which could ultimately result in them facing shortened seasons. “Saturday Night Live” may be similarly affected, though Deadline noted that an official decision about new episodes is expected to arrive later this week.

Next up, broadcast TV shows scheduled to return in the fall will likely be delayed as they typically start writing in the summer. So that means network darlings like “Abbott Elementary” would, unfortunately, be in danger of having its upcoming season pushed back. Sitcom creator Quinta Brunson reacted to the strike at the 2023 Met Gala just hours before it went into effect, telling AP News, “I’m a member of WGA and support WGA, and them getting – we, us – getting what we need.”

Unscripted programming like reality shows, game shows, news, and sports will be largely unaffected, and streaming content may also be safe for now as its production model runs on a longer time span. Meaning, most of those projects are produced far before they’re distributed on platforms. Streamers also have huge libraries of content at their disposal so viewers would still have other means to entertain themselves amid the strike.

Movie projects would likely avoid any effects from the strike until next year, should anything currently in the pipeline be delayed or unable to start filming. But the longer the strike lasts, the more severe issues will arise.

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