The third straight day of marathon negotiations between Hollywood studios and striking screenwriters ended Friday evening without an agreement. But the two sides have made significant progress, according to three people familiar with the talks.
The two sides plan to meet again on Saturday.
Friday’s session began at 11 a.m. PT at the suburban Los Angeles headquarters of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which negotiates on behalf of major entertainment companies. For the third day in a row, several Hollywood moguls participated directly in the negotiations, which ended shortly after 8 p.m
Robert A. Iger, CEO of Disney; Donna Langley, NBCUniversal chief content officer for Universal Pictures; Ted Sarandos, co-CEO of Netflix; and David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery had previously delegated bargaining with the union to others. Their direct involvement — which many screenwriters and some analysts said was long overdue — has contributed to tangible progress over the past few days, according to people familiar with the talks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic nature of the effort.
During Thursday’s negotiations, the two sides narrowed their differences, for example, on the issue of minimum staffing in television writers’ rooms, a point the studios were not prepared to address before the union called a strike in early May.
However, Thursday’s session took a different turn, after the two sides agreed to take a short break at around 5 p.m., according to people familiar with the talks. Studio executives and labor lawyers were expecting union negotiators to return to discuss points they had previously been working on. Instead, the union made additional requests — one of which was that the screenwriters’ return to work be tied to the resolution of the actors’ strike.
The actors’ union, known as SAG-AFTRA, joined the writers on the picket lines on July 14. Its demands go beyond those of the Writers Syndicate. Among other things, the actors want 2% of the gross revenue generated by live shows, something the studios have said doesn’t work.
Several hours after the talks ended Thursday evening, the union sent an email to its members telling them the two sides would meet on Friday.
“Your negotiating committee appreciates all the messages of solidarity and support we have received in the past few days, and asks as many of you as possible to come out to the picket lines tomorrow,” the email said.
The union extended picket hours on Friday until 2 p.m. The sit-ins usually end at noon.
In Los Angeles, several hundred writers protested outside the arched gates of Paramount Pictures, a much larger number than in recent weeks. The Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA organized themed sit-ins to keep members engaged, and the theme Friday was “Puppet Day,” meaning that in addition to picket signs, some protesters carried hand puppets and puppets. The mood was upbeat.
Outside the Netflix offices in Hollywood on Friday afternoon, writers began a sit-in Submit farewell letters, delivered via Bullhorn. At CBS Arena in Studio City, the theme was “silent disco,” with several hundred writers dancing while wearing headphones.
The talks were mostly back on track by the time the sit-in ended Friday, according to two people familiar with the matter. On the thorny issue of minimum staffing for TV shows, the two sides have been discussing a proposal in which a minimum of four writers would be hired regardless of the number of episodes or whether the showrunner feels the work can be done with fewer. (Earlier in the week, studios were pushing for a tiered number based on the number of episodes.)
They were also discussing a plan in which first-time writers would receive payments from streaming services — in addition to other fees — based on a percentage of active subscribers. The guild originally asked entertainment companies to create a viewership-based royalty payment system (known in Hollywood as residuals) in order to “reward programs with greater viewership.”
The writers have been on strike for 144 days. The longest writers’ strike was 153 days in 1988.
“Thank you for the amazing show of support on the picket lines today!” The union’s bargaining committee said in an email to members late Friday. “This means a lot to us as we continue to work toward a deal the writers deserve.”
Nicole Sperling Contributed to reports.
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