Late-night shows to go dark as writers guild calls strike

Writers complain they are working longer hours for less money.

Joshua Young North Carolina

Late night talk shows starring Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, along with The Daily Show, are all shutting down production on Tuesday after the negotiations continued between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and major entertainment studios fell apart.

The union that represents most writers working in film and television was trying to avoid a writer's strike during last minute negotiations, reports Reuters, but instead it's resulted in the first WGA strike in 15 years.

Deals have yet to be struck with Netflix and Disney, two major studios that make content for their streaming services. WGA writers say the streaming boom has changed the production model in a way that has resulted in writers working more hours for less money.

"I love writing. I love writing for TV. I love writing this show," Meyers said. "I love that we get to come in with an idea for what we want to do every day and we get to work on it all afternoon and then I have the pleasure of coming out here. No one is entitled to a job in show business. But for those people who have a job, they are entitled to fair compensation. They are entitled to make a living. I think it’s a very reasonable demand that’s being set out by the guild. And I support those demands."

Daytime program The View may also see a sudden impact.

Deadline reports that late night showrunners "will stay in touch with each other as the strike progresses to give a unified approach to the situation, something that didn’t happen in ’07-’08."

An SNL star said "We have to think about our crew too. I absolutely support the writers, and I want the writers to get what they deserve and need, but I don’t want our crew to be out of work. We can’t make this art without each other."

Pay scales vary significantly for WGA members, as their 53-page schedule of minimums covers the range of labor a writer can do for productions, from selling a pilot to staffing a scripted show. 

According to Variety, the minimum for a TV writer-producer is $7,412 a week in pay. For a 35-40 week contract that income makes between $259,420 to $206,480. Most writers make more than this minimum. A 20 to 24 week contract, more common for streaming shows, sees writers making $148,240 to $177,888 in salary.

For a network show, the median writer works 29 weeks and takes home a $131,834 salary.

WGA liaison Caroline Renard said this pay was so low it was erasing the "middle class in Hollywood."

In addition to higher wages, the guild has asked for protections against AI use for creative writing and that they should not be asked to perform rewrites on material generated by a computer.

The negotiation comes as many companies, such as Disney, have been making sweeping layoffs to address the economic climate, which includes record-high inflation. Many streaming sites, such as Netflix, have been operating with structured debt which has increased pressure for frugality.

"The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O), Disney, Warner Bros Discovery (WBD.O), Netflix and hundreds of production companies, has said it is committed to reaching a fair agreement," reports Reuters.


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