Hopes rise for end to Hollywood writers' strike as talks extend


(MENAFN- AFP)

Hollywood writers and studios were due to meet for a third consecutive day of high-level talks Friday, raising the industry's hopes that an end to the costly 144-day Writers Guild of America strike could finally be near.

Thousands of film and television scribes downed their pens back in early May over demands including better pay for writers, greater rewards for creating hit shows, and protection from artificial intelligence.

They have manned picket lines for months outside offices including Netflix and Disney and -- having been joined by striking actors in mid-July -- bringing the entertainment industry to a highly expensive standstill.

After a lengthy negotiating session Thursday, the WGA wrote to members that talks would continue again the next day, and urged "as many of you as possible to come out to the picket lines" Friday, where the usual protest hours were extended into the early afternoon.

The heads of Netflix, Disney, Universal and Warner Bros Discovery have personally attended this week's talks, and were expected to return Friday for a third day, according to Deadline.

Analysts say that unusual step could indicate that a deal is close -- or simply a renewed sense of urgency to end a walkout that is preventing work from resuming on a wide array of film and TV projects, leaving studios and networks with vast looming gaps in their release schedules.

Among their demands, writers say their salaries have not kept up with inflation, and that the rise of streaming has diminished the "residuals" they earn when a show they work on becomes a smash hit.

Studios have offered greater transparency in streaming audience numbers, while stopping short of offering to revise the way residual payments are calculated.

Writers have also demanded curbs on the use of AI, which they fear could be used to partially replace them in generating future films or show scripts, and therefore further undercut their pay.

This remains a key sticking point between the two sides, according to reports in Hollywood trade publications this week.

At 144 days and counting, the WGA strike is already significantly longer than the writers' 2007-08 walkout -- which lasted 100 days and cost the California economy $2.1 billion.

The Financial Times reported Milken Institute research at the start of September that put the cost of the current Hollywood standstill at $5 billion.

It is approaching the union's longest-ever industrial action, which lasted for 154 days in 1988.

Even if the writers agree to a new deal, the actors' strike would continue.

There have been no known contract talks between the studios and the actors' 160,000-strong SAG-AFTRA guild since that strike began.

But the two unions share many similar demands, and insiders say that a WGA deal could help to pave the way for a resolution to the actors' strike.

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AFP

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