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Viewership Transparency, A.I. Among Issues Dividing Writers and Hollywood Companies in Contract Talks


Viewer-based residuals, artificial intelligence, and minimal staffing for the writers’ room are some of the issues the Writers Guild of America wanted to address that went nowhere with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, according to a document prepared Monday night by the writers.

The proposals and the studios’ alleged response came after the AMPTP and the WGA ended negotiations Monday night without a deal, after which the WGA called for a strike to begin on Tuesday.

According to the document, which first revealed the exact nature of what the WGA was calling for, there was some movement on issues such as script fees for staff writers and an increase in the span cap, but other issues appeared to be out of the question. (The Hollywood Reporter has asked the AMPTP for comment on their alleged answers as stated in the document.)

For streaming projects, the WGA requested viewer-based residuals, in addition to their existing fixed residuals, “to reward programs with more viewers,” the document said. This requires viewership transparency, something streamers seem unwilling to do, even for the stars of shows and movies themselves. The WGA said the AMPTP rejected the proposal and refused to make a counter-proposal.

Concerns about AI taking over writing are also said to have been glossed over by the studios. The WGA wanted to regulate the use of AI and wanted assurance that AI could not be used to write or rewrite literary material, nor as source material. The AMPTP rejected the guild’s proposals and, as a counterweight, offered annual meetings to discuss technological advances, the WGA said.

The signature side showed some give and take, but as of Monday night, the sides were still wide apart. The WGA wants movies with budgets over $12 million to get their theatrical terms. The film companies countered that films should cost $40 million or more and were willing to increase initial compensation by 9 percent, even though “no improvement in residuals” was offered, the WGA said.

The guild also wanted a guaranteed second writing step, or paypoint, for feature film deals, while the producers rejected that idea, saying instead they were willing to hold a meeting for executives and producers to educate them on free work concerns. writers. .”

“The studios are more focused on greed than keeping people employed,” one writer-producer noted when reading the proposals.

On the television side, the WGA and AMPTP are far apart in the guild’s efforts to “maintain” writers’ rooms with a proposal for a minimum of six writers per room and that number growing as the episode order grows with an additional staff member added for every two episodes with a maximum of 12 per room. The proposal would effectively eliminate authors willing to write every episode of a series without the benefit of a room. The studios have rejected the WGA’s proposals and have refused to oppose, the guild said.

One of the other central issues at stake in the negotiations is the proliferation of so-called “mini-rooms” in which a handful of writers tell stories before a formal serial order, which is not always a guarantee. The guild is looking for guarantees of 10 consecutive weeks of work, including sending writers to set up. The latter used to be a no-brainer for broadcast, but has fallen out of favor with studios and streamers given the added cost of having writers set up. Some showrunners, such as former WGA negotiating committee member Shawn Ryan (Netflix’s The Night Agent) have successfully asked streamers to send writers to help train the next generation.

Heading into negotiations, many writers and enlightened agents were concerned about “span,” the time it takes to create scripted runs. Span protection would ensure that writers are fairly compensated for programs that could take years to complete, a trend increasingly prevalent in the Peak TV era of lavish premium content. The guild proposes a minimum staff that guarantees 10 consecutive weeks of work and that writers are allowed to use at least three weeks per episode and that half of the minimum staff can be employed through production and one writer employed through post-production. The studios rejected the proposals and refused to counter.

“They are very, very far apart,” a showrunner with multiple series spanning broadcast and streaming platforms told me THR after examining the proposals.

The WGA said its proposals would earn writers an estimated $429 million a year, while the AMPTP’s bid would bring in about $86 million annually, 48 percent of which would come from the minimums (wage floor). The WGA proposed minimum increases of 6 percent / 5 percent / 5 percent across the board over the course of the three-year contract, including residuals. Studios responded 4 percent/3 percent/2 percent, including a one-time increase to residual bases of 2 percent or 2.5 percent.

However, some progress has been made over the weeks of negotiations, the WGA says: Preliminary agreements include staff writers earning script fees in addition to their weekly pay, an increase in the span cap from $400,000 to $450,000 and expansion from that protection to writers on limited series. The guild also offered a free “promotional” broadcast for broadcast series.

In its own statement Monday night, the AMPTP said sticking points in the negotiations included the WGA’s push for a minimum writer’s room size and minimum writer’s room duration. These proposals “would require a company to staff a show with a certain number of writers for a certain period of time, whether necessary or not,” according to the AMPTP.

The Alliance added that it presented a “comprehensive package proposal” of compensation and streaming residuals on Sunday night, just one day before the writer’s contract expires. “The AMPTP has also indicated to the WGA that it is willing to improve that offering, but has been unwilling to do so due to the magnitude of other proposals still on the table that the Guild continues to push for,” the group said.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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