Hollywood strike averted as screenwriters reach deal with producers
A tentative deal has been reached between screenwriters and producers, averting a strike that could have crippled TV and film production and inflicted harm on the wider California economy.
The three-year agreement, which needs ratification by members of the Writers Guild of America, was confirmed by the guild and producers' spokesman Jarryd Gonzales shortly after the current contract expired on Tuesday.
The two sides held to a media blackout during negotiations which started on March 13 and centred on compensation and health care.
The agreement spares the late-night shows that would have halted immediately without writers, and allows the networks to pursue their schedules for the upcoming TV season without interruption.
Movie production would have felt the impact of a strike more gradually.
Guild members voted overwhelmingly last month to authorise a strike, and the WGA could have called for an immediate walkout on Tuesday. The previous writers' strike took an estimated 2 billion dollar toll on the state.
After the 2007-08 strike, the two sides reached agreements in 2010 and 2013, but TV writers in particular have seen their earnings slide since then and want to claw back some losses.
Driving the dispute were changes in how television is distributed, with streaming platforms including Netflix and Amazon joining broadcast and cable TV and rising in importance.
More outlets have led to more shows, but the TV season model is greatly changed. Despite the fact there are more series than ever - 455 this season, more than double the number six years ago - shows run for fewer episodes than the traditional 22 to 24-episode broadcast series.
Short seasons of eight, 10 or 12 episodes mean less pay for writers who are paid on a per-episode basis.
The 2007-08 strike played out in true Hollywood style. Writers took to social media to make their case. Stars including Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tina Fey joined picket lines, and then-Tonight Show host Jay Leno took doughnuts for strikers.
Before Tuesday's deal was announced, writer-actress Lena Dunham said she would back a strike this time.
"I would never have had the health coverage I had without the union, and that's one of the main points in this," she said at the Met Gala on Monday night.
Actress Debra Winger said she would support any reasonable action by the writers, but was mindful of the damage it would cause.
"I'm thinking of all the businesses that I work with at Warner Bros for several months out of the year and (the) restaurants, shoe repair, dry cleaners," she said during an interview promoting her new film, The Lovers.
"The last writers' strike affected the city of Los Angeles in a devastating way."