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Tensions Rise in Hollywood as Emboldened Writers Guild Renews Negotiations

Variety logo Variety 4/26/2017 Dave McNary
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With a possible writers strike starting in a week, tensions are rising markedly in Hollywood due to the massive uncertainty that’s been injected into the entertainment business.

Studios and companies have been holding contingency meetings to plot out the scenarios that incorporate a work stoppage that could come as early as May 2. “The talk of a strike is becoming a dominant topic,” one exec admitted.

Contract negotiations resumed Tuesday following an eight-day break and will continue Wednesday. “I think they will go down to the wire,” one source told Variety.

There were no public comments from either side Tuesday as negotiations started again at the headquarters of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers with both sides observing a media blackout.

A strike would require all 12,000 WGA members to stop work immediately. It would cause an immediate blackout of late-night television programming, followed by delays in programming for the 2017-2018 season and scripted summer shows currently in production.

The WGA announced Monday that it had obtained a 96% positive vote from members for a strike authorization. A total of 6,310 ballots were cast and 67.5% of eligible WGA members voted. The level of support for the strike authorization was well above the 90% level achieved in 2007. WGA leaders made the case that while they do not wish to go strike, they needed a show of unity in order to negotiate the best deal.

Sources have indicated that when negotiators last met, the two sides had been closing some of the gaps in the area of adjusting compensation terms for writers working on short-order series. WGA has been seeing lost income and long production timetables for many cable and streaming shows, which produce fewer episodes than the traditional 22- or 24-episode seasons for broadcast network shows.

The two sides are facing complex bargaining over the WGA health plan, which has run a deficit during most of the past few years given the spiraling cost of health care. Producers were believed to be offering to increase contributions by $60 million while the WGA was asking for around $80 million to $85 million.

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