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After months of heated rhetoric and collateral damage, the Writers Guild of America and major Hollywood studios officially ended a months-long strike that shuttered production on all your favorite scripted shows and films.
"The WGA reached a tentative agreement with the AMPTP. Today, our Negotiating Committee, WGAW Board, and WGAE Council all voted unanimously to recommend the agreement," the Writers Guild West tweeted on Tuesday, Sept. 26. "The strike ends at 12:01 am."
The strike lasted 148 days, which was second-longest in the union's history, according to Variety.
The WGA reached a tentative agreement with the AMPTP. Today, our Negotiating Committee, WGAW Board, and WGAE Council all voted unanimously to recommend the agreement. The strike ends at 12:01 am. Check out our deal at https://t.co/c0ULMXhPL7. #WGAStrong pic.twitter.com/7z8kw9xI1p
— Writers Guild of America West (@WGAWest) September 27, 2023
While the new three-year contract won't go into effect until after a ratification vote with all 11,500 WGA members, which will happen between Oct. 2 and Oct. 9, the guild's leadership agreed to allow writers back to work during the ratification process. That means they can be back in the writers room as soon as Wednesday.
The news comes just days after the WGA announced they'd reached a tentative deal, much to the delight of viewers. Even President Biden, who loves a good Netflix-and-chill night, applauded the decision in a statement he shared Monday.
What exactly does it all mean for your favorite shows — and when, exactly, can you expect them to return? Here’s what you need to know.
How did we get here?
The WGA strike began on May 2 after union negotiators, on behalf of the guild’s 11,500 members, failed to reach agreement by the May 1 deadline with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which negotiates contracts for all the major studios, streaming services and broadcast networks. Traditionally, a new deal is negotiated every three years.
As stressed in its list of demands, the WGA sought higher residual payments and pay rates for writers working on streaming shows (the guidelines hadn’t evolved since the advent of streaming), as well as stricter protections surrounding the use of artificial intelligence. With the rise of popular streaming shows, which traditionally have shorter seasons and fewer writers on staff, the guild said it was harder for those writers to earn a sustainable living.
The strike was ultimately one of the longest in Hollywood history, outlasting the 100 days of the union’s 2007-08 strike, and compounded by an equally impactful strike by the actors union SAG-AFTRA, which has been going since July 14 and similarly seeks higher pay rates and AI protections.
What does the new contract entail?
New restrictions arround Artificial Intelligence (AI):
AI can’t write or rewrite literary material, AI-generated material will not be considered source material under the Minimum Basic Agreement, meaning that AI-generated material can’t be used to undermine a writer’s credit or separated rights.
A writer can choose to use AI when performing writing services, if the company consents and provided that the writer follows applicable company policies, but the company can’t require the writer to use AI software (e.g., ChatGPT) when performing writing services.
The Company must disclose to the writer if any materials given to the writer have been generated by AI or incorporate AI-generated material.
The WGA reserves the right to assert that exploitation of writers’ material to train AI is prohibited by MBA or other law.
Minimum pay rates increase:
Such rates will increase by 5% on ratification of the contract (4% starting on 5/2/2024 and 3.5% starting on 5/2/2025).
Streaming services will now have to share statistics about their streaming data with the WGA, including for shows and movies that are viewed by 20% of a streaming service's subscribers within 90 days. Based on that data, writers must compensated with significant residual bonuses.
Other changes include new and improved provisions for health care as well as ensuring longer minimum periods of work for writers in development rooms and post-production rooms. And while the guild pressed to expand the minimum number of writers for a show to six, plus one more for every two episodes, it eventually settled on three writer-producers, plus an an additional two to three writers if the season has seven or more episodes, as explained by Entertainment Weekly.
Does it mean the coast is clear for Drew Barrymore and other daytime hosts?
The Talk is returning on Oct. 9 while The Kelly Clarkson Show will be back on the airwaves Oct. 16, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The Jennifer Hudson Show is back swinging, having returned on Oct. 2.
Those shows were prepared to launch last month without their WGA-member writers in order fulfill syndication deals. However, they were still considered “struck shows,” as noted by the Wrap. Unlike ABC’s The View, which continued production despite heavy criticism from the WGA, those aforementioned shows decided to postpone their new seasons.
Shows that don’t employ WGA staffers include Sherri (which paused filming due to host Sherri Shepherd’s COVID diagnosis but is set to return this week), Karamo, Tamron Hall and Live With Kelly and Ryan — all of which were able to continue production despite the strike.
Will Mayim be back on Jeopardy!? What about DWTS and other reality shows?
Popular scripted shows were stalled because of the dual strikes, which prompted networks to fill their fall schedules with reruns, sports and unscripted programming, including game shows and reality programs.
But because unscripted shows typically have taping schedules different from live television and scripted series, most were already done filming by the time the strike was in full swing. That includes ABC’s Celebrity Family Feud, $100,000 Pyramid and Press Your Luck as well as the network’s The Bachelorette and NBC’s America’s Got Talent (which employed no union writers and continued its live shows in August as planned).
Meanwhile, CBS’s Big Brother is nonunion and was unaffected. The Price Is Right wasn’t covered under the guild contract in 2007.
ABC managed to twirl out of trouble with Dancing With the Stars, with the show going on as planned on Sept. 26.
Other shows premiering new episodes in the coming weeks include Fox’s Lego Masters and Hell’s Kitchen, as well as ABC’s Shark Tank and Press Your Luck.
Shows like Jeopardy! continued filming, with Ken Jennings as the sole host because Mayim Bialik decided to step aside until the dual strikes were settled. Jennings responded to critics of his decision by saying he decided to follow the same script as his legendary predecessor, Alex Trebek, who hosted the show through the 2007 strike.
As showrunner Michael Davies explained in August on the Inside Jeopardy! podcast, the show's producers compensated by using “a combination of material that our WGA writers wrote before the strike” and “material that has been redeployed from multiple, multiple seasons of the show.” (Meaning, new episodes were made up of some new material and recycled answers.) Still, the show even had trouble recruiting contestants, who were reluctant to cross any picket lines.
Ultimately, most unscripted shows continued unabated during the strike and will resume their normal production schedules and airdates as soon as they can.
What about Colbert, the Jimmys and the rest of the late night crew?
Most late-night shows shut down in April due to the WGA strike — including ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, CBS’s Late Show With Stephen Colbert, and NBC’s Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night With Seth Meyers. Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, as well as HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver also went dark.
Throughout the strike, non-writing executive producers, digital teams, production managers and bookers continued to work, with some continuing to book talent for future episodes with the knowledge that they’d eventually be back in production.
Late-night talk shows, including Fallon, Meyers, Kimmel and Colbert returned to air on Oct. 2. John Oliver returned to HBO on Oct. 1. The Daily Show set its return date for Oct. 16.
There is one caveat to late night's return: As long as actors remain on strike, they are forbidden from talking about past and future acting projects, so the late-night hosts might need to get creative with their interviews and bits.
Meanwhile, HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher returned on Friday, Sept. 29. Maher had been prepared for a return before the strike was over, but, like Barrymore, he backed off his decision as he came under harsh criticism.
My writers and Real Time are back! See you Friday Night!
— Bill Maher (@billmaher) September 27, 2023
Live from New York ... soon
Scripted shows and variety shows — like NBC’s Saturday Night Live — will return to the writers room as soon as the agreement is resolved, though select filming may have to wait until SAG-AFTRA settles.
On Wednesday, SNL announced it will return on Oct. 14, with host Pete Davidson and musical guest Ice Spice. The following week, on Oct. 21, Bad Bunny will be doing double duty as the show's host and musical guest.
Season 49 starts next week!!! pic.twitter.com/4YJgVumluS
— Saturday Night Live - SNL (@nbcsnl) October 4, 2023
A number of scripted TV and streaming series were canceled amid the dual strikes, while several returning shows and film shoots saw their premieres delayed to 2024 — including Season 2 of Amazon's The Rings of Power, which was nearly done with production before the strike began, similar to Season 2 of HBO’s House of the Dragon.
Meanwhile, Craig Mazin, the writer and producer of HBO’s The Last of Us, announced on Threads that he is “excited to get back to work” on the second season as soon as possible.
Writers on Netflix's Stranger Things also confirmed they were back to work, tweeting "We're back" on Sept. 27. Filming has yet to get underway on the final season, however, having originally been set for May before the writers and actors strikes.
Deadline confirmed that other shows will be returning in the fall, including Fox’s The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers and Family Guy; NBC’s Magnum P.I. and Quantum Leap as well as anticipated streaming shows like the Paramount+’s revival of Frasier, Netflix’s Big Mouth and Disney+’s second season of Loki.
While scripted shows may commence the writing process, they remain stuck until the actors settle. However, with the writers finding a path forward, the industry is hopeful for a resolution before Halloween.
But could there be a last-minute plot twist?
For example, Mike Sime, owner of Visual Alchemy, whose team provides video and tech equipment for nearly all TV episodic and film sets in New York City, tells Yahoo Entertainment that he’s optimistic the SAG-AFTRA strike will end soon, noting that the union will likely “use the WGA agreement, if approved, as a template.”
But he fears another issue could arise. As a longtime member of IATSE, the union for electricians, makeup artists and other behind-the-scenes tech engineers, Sime says he had to furlough his entire 15-member staff due to financial loss prompted by the strikes (which, he says, has been an under-reported issue). He believes IATSE could soon be demanding negotiations of its own.
“I think there’s a big fear that [tech] crews will be so tired and broke from these strikes that they’ll take any new contract when this one is up, and forget all the asks from last time that were bypassed and left on the table for various reasons,” he says.
This could lead to more production shutdowns, he says, since TV and film sets rely heavily on unionized tech crews. “The situation,” he says bluntly, “sucks.”
Editor's note: This story was orignally published on Sept. 25, 2023 and has been updated with new information.