More pay, streaming bonuses, AI limits: Four takeaways from the WGA deal to end the writers' strike

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 05: Picketers with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike outside the Sunset Bronson Studios along Sunset Blvd. on Monday, June 5, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA. The WGA is entering its' sixth week of the walkout. The Directors Guild of America said it has reached a "historic deal" with the major studios on a new three-year film and TV contract. A Netflix building is seen in the background. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
A picketer with the WGA walks outside Sunset Bronson Studios in June, during the sixth week of the strike. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

The Writers Guild of America on Tuesday disclosed the details of the tentative deal it secured with the major Hollywood studios to end the strike that has lasted for nearly five months.

A seven-page summary document, which was distributed to the WGA's 11,500 film and TV writer members, includes increases in wages and residuals, as well as language addressing the union's demands for minimum staff in television writers rooms, payments based on the success of streaming shows and protections against the use of artificial intelligence.

Read more: Writers' strike: What happened, how it ended and its impact on Hollywood

It was a deal for which writers fought hard.

The WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the big entertainment companies on the labor front, reached the pact on Sunday after 146 days of picketing and marching that virtually shuttered movie and scripted TV production. The writers' walkout began May 2. Actors represented by SAG-AFTRA, who remain on strike, hit the picket lines in mid-July.

Read more: Read the full WGA tentative agreement

The WGA West board and WGA East council approved the deal, which was recommended unanimously by the guild's negotiating committee. Now it will be presented to the union's membership for a ratification vote. The WGA said the strike would officially end Wednesday, with writers finally going back to work. Ratification is expected to take place in October.

The WGA said the total value of the deal was $233 million, up from $86 million the AMPTP had offered.

"This contract — won with the power of member solidarity and our union siblings over a 148-day strike — incorporates meaningful gains and protections for writers in every segment of the membership," the union said in the document.

"We feel great. We won," said WGA West President Meredith Stiehm in an interview.

Here are the basics of what's in the deal.

Higher pay

The three-year film and TV contract raises basic wages by 5% in the first year, followed by 4% in Year 2 and 3.5% in Year 3. Select residual bases and minimums will get lower increases or single increases, the guild said.

Streaming bonuses/data

The contract establishes a system of providing bonuses to writers based on viewership on streaming services.

Writers already receive residuals from shows made for streaming services, but the WGA wanted to establish a system that would reward scribes if their work drew huge viewership on Netflix, for example. The way compensation has typically worked on streaming is that the producers get paid upfront but don't get to participate in the wins. The guild sought to change that. In service of this goal, the WGA wanted streamers to be more transparent with viewership data, a central issue in the strike.

The contract allows the WGA to receive confidential viewership metrics for original streaming shows based on hours viewed. Aggregated data can be shared.

Minimum staffing

The contract sets minimum staffing requirements for TV writers rooms, depending on the length of the season. For series with up to six episodes, three writers must be hired, for example. For shows of 13 or more episodes per season, minimum staffing is six writers, including three writer-producers. The minimum employment of writers per episode applies to greenlighted shows, "unless a single writer is employed to write all episodes of a season," the document said.

One of the biggest complaints among screenwriters going into contract negotiations was that, in the streaming era, TV seasons have gotten shorter and writers rooms have shrunk. That has meant fewer opportunities for writers, who have to cobble together one job after another to make a living. The increased use of "mini-rooms," in which a team of writers breaks down a season of a show before production starts, has limited the ability of early-career writers to gain experience on TV productions.

Artificial intelligence

The new WGA contract includes language that regulates the studios' use of AI but also provides flexibility to the guild's members. Companies must disclose to writers if any material given to a writer has been generated by AI or incorporates AI-generated material, according to the guild's document.

The use of artificial intelligence has become a fraught topic in the entertainment industry, with studios finding ways to make the development and production process more efficient. The rapid rise of ChatGPT and other examples of generative AI technology has taken center stage for writers who believe such "efficiencies" threaten screenwriter employment. This was among the final and most difficult deal points to hammer out. Neither side wants to lock itself into contract language that would backfire in three years.

Times staff writer Stacy Perman contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.