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Daily Digest: Actors Poised to Make 'Hot Labor Summer' Even Hotter
A SAG-AFTRA strike authorization vote means we could have a double strike soon
As the writers strike rages into Month Two, Hollywood is braced for the actors to join them on the picket line.
Come July 1, the town may be in the grips of a double strike, if the guild that represents 160,000 actors doesn’t come to a new TV and theatrical contract deal with Hollywood’s major studios. SAG-AFTRA revealed the results of its strike authorization vote last night — a convincing 97 percent with nearly 65,000 members voting — ahead of the start of its negotiations with the AMPTP on Wednesday.
“As we enter what may be one of the most consequential negotiations in the union’s history, inflation, dwindling residuals due to streaming, and generative AI all threaten actors’ ability to earn a livelihood if our contracts are not adapted to reflect the new realities,” SAG-AFTRA national executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said in a statement last night. “This strike authorization means we enter our negotiations from a position of strength so that we can deliver the deal our members want and deserve.”
The writers, of course, were elated. Their concerns are not identical to SAG’s, but there’s enough overlap — AI, residuals, sustainable wages — to theoretically create compounded leverage in each guild’s talks with the studios.
“There seems to be a clear sense that we’re all in this one together,” one screenwriter texted me earlier today. “IATSE continuing to respect pickets in spite of real financial impact, and now SAG authorization as close to unanimous as it gets.”
That’s not strictly the case: the Directors Guild struck a tentative deal with the studios over the weekend, a move that disappointed many a writer but was largely expected. Individual directors have shown up to support their writer friends on the picket lines, but the DGA hasn’t backed the WGA to the same degree that SAG, the Teamsters or IATSE have.
But the screenwriter I spoke to believes that “no one is distracted by the directors’ deal and this is a strong and necessary message to [the] AMPTP.”
One business affairs exec — who thought that the DGA-studio pact “wasn’t a home run” but was “a very solid deal, for both sides really” — told me that SAG’s call for a strike authorization before the negotiations had even begun was an “assertive and unusual” move, but it made sense for the guild to walk into the negotiating room with leverage given that there are only about three weeks left until its three-year contract expires at the end of the month.
“I don’t think the result of the vote was ever in doubt, even if 98 percent is a few points higher than I would have guessed,” said the BA exec. “I think the SAG strike risk is high, but I thought that before the results of the vote were announced.”
Elsewhere on The Ankler…
Richard Rushfield says the conflict between the studios and writers is “getting ridiculous. And it's hurting a lot of people and the health of the industry.”
If we're going to get beyond this, both sides need to reorient toward a place of actual haggling. On the AMPTP side, they need to drop the mask of stony indifference, give some indication for the first time that they acknowledge the disruption of the last few years has caused difficulty for a lot of people, and affirm that they are going to open their wallets to work with the WGA to find solutions.
(If, of course, they make some statement like this and don't live up to it, all bets are off. But it is notable that no one in studio leadership has made even the most perfunctory nod to what should be a basic understanding of the situation.)
On the WGA side, there needs to be an understanding that if this strike goes on, this is going to hurt a lot of people outside your own. That's not the writers' fault. If the studios refuse to budge, they have to communicate to the entertainment community what this is about, why they need and appreciate the support of others, and what their demands are for solving it.
Meanwhile, my colleague Sean McNulty took a close look at the business calendar in today’s Wakeup newsletter to see how the strike could play out this summer, month by month…
AUGUST (Strike Month 4)
AMPTP #PainPoints: Rising .
America still hasn’t really noticed a thing, outside of Late Night TV still being in reruns for some reason (or replaced by a SportsCenter simulcast), as most folks aren’t watching TV anyway - it’s August.
BUT: EARNINGS SEASON IS BACK!
Which is probably the best development striking writers could get this Summer (aside from SAG-AFTRA being on strike with them in August).
Hitting Studio stock prices is arguably the most potent blow the WGA can deliver… and here’s where it could kick in hard.
The strike will be a much bigger topic of concern for Wall Street analysts vs. the Q1 calls, where it was basically non-existent (save for analyst Jessica Reif Erlich who kept the topic alive on a couple of them).
I.e. They’ll be asking a lot more questions on these calls, and Zaz/Bakish/Cavanaugh/Iger (and to some extent Ted) will need to say more on the topic, at minimum.
Especially about just how fast shows could get back on the air once a deal is reached, and begin to restore Revenue at the Hollywood Studios - as yes, the short term $$ savings on production in late Q2 will help some numbers, but…
The lack of scripted Broadcast programming (read: Ad Revenue) could very well materially affect Q3 $$ Studio projections.
Effects which Studios will have to disclose on the Summer Q2 calls if they expect a significant impact on their Q3 Revenue from:
Not having 3 Chicago shows, Grey’s Anatomy and Blue Bloods on their airwaves for Advertisers to buy.
TV Production divisions not getting checks from Streamers & Networks for the delivery of new episodes of series.
Yes… you saved money on production. But no production = no paycheck for those shows you’ve sold to 3rd parties.
Read both stories on The Ankler, with a subscription.
Today in Strike News
In the first quarter of 2023, talk shows brought in $221.4 million in ad spending, while soap operas earned $59.4 million. You can do the math on what those numbers might mean in the second quarter if the strike drags on. (Broadcasting+Cable)
Filming permit requests in New York City dropped by a whopping 31.5 percent last month and 13 percent in April as a result of the strike. (Variety)
The strike has gone tropical, as writers in Hawaii protest in Waikiki, a suburb of Honolulu. (KHON2)
Add one more to the fray, potentially: many VFX artists are looking to unionize amid poor working conditions and unwieldy demands from studios. (Vulture)
While the picket line serves as something of a “great unifier,” Black women on strike are faced with weightier stakes and pressures. (Refinery29)
The overseas setting of Netflix’s Emily in Paris hasn’t granted it any special exception, with filming delayed for two months due to the strike. (Variety)
Peacock’s upcoming series Hysteria!, which was the first production to be picketed in the state of Georgia, will not resume filming until the strike comes to a close. (Deadline)
It’s-a gonna take a while until moviegoers return to the Mushroom Kingdom, as no talks about a Super Mario Bros. 2 will occur until after the strike ends, according to lead voice star Chris Pratt. (Collider)
Picket Sign of the Day
Mama always said…
Additional reporting by Matthew Frank