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Warner Bros. TV Suspends Deals Amid Prolonged WGA and SAG-AFTRA Strikes




More than three months into the writer’s strike, Warner Bros. Television (WBTV) has made the unprecedented move to suspend the overall deals with some of its leading creators. This drastic action affects:

  • J.J. Abrams’s Bad Robot Productions
  • Greg Berlanti Productions
  • Bill Lawrence’s Doozer Productions
  • John Wells’ Productions
  • Chuck Lorre Prods
  • Mindy Kaling’s Kaling International

These suspensions come three months after WBTV began suspending contracts for writer-producers without ongoing series in production or post-production.

Strikes and Their Implications

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) initiated its strike in May against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) due to issues surrounding residuals, AI, and streaming transparency. Two months after the WGA strike began, SAG-AFTRA followed suit, authorizing its strike amidst a labor disagreement with AMPTP. As a result, the majority of Hollywood’s productions came to a halt unless adhering to SAG-AFTRA’s Interim Agreement.

Producers and Their Projects

Several of the suspended producers, including Chuck Lorre and John Wells, were informed about the suspensions months prior. Here’s a snapshot of the projects these creators were associated with:

  • J.J. Abrams was involved with the series “Duster” for Max.
  • Greg Berlanti’s “Superman & Lois” secured a renewal at The CW.
  • Chuck Lorre’s “Bob Hearts Abishola” concluded its fourth season on CBS in May.
  • Bill Lawrence received praise for “Shrinking” on Apple TV+.
  • Mindy Kaling’s “Sex Lives of College Girls” was about to initiate production for its third season.

Future Implications

It’s vital to distinguish between deal suspensions and cancellations. The suspended deals imply that once the labor disputes are resolved, these top producers can potentially return to resume writing and producing as WBTV would require them to recharge the content creation process swiftly. The entertainment industry has been heavily affected by these strikes, with companies like Roku and potentially NBCUniversal looking at possible layoffs. The uncertainty poses a challenge for both the producers and the studios, impacting the entertainment industry’s future landscape.

Studios’ Strategy

The current scenario contrasts with the 2007-08 WGA strike, where outright deal terminations occurred. This time, studios prefer suspensions over cancellations, primarily because suspensions don’t necessitate payments during the work stoppage. This strategy might stem from the fact that studios had previously reduced their rosters in the preceding year.

While the top showrunners at WBTV and other studios might enjoy the luxury of suspend-and-extend agreements, ensuring that their suspension time is added to their contract’s end, mid and lower-level contracts might not have this advantage and might expire by the strike’s conclusion.

Navigating the Digital Revolution

The entertainment industry’s transformation, spurred by the rapid advent of digital technologies, streaming platforms, and changing viewer habits, has put it at a crossroads. This evolution, although promising boundless opportunities for content creation and distribution, also carries a set of complex challenges that have become the focal points of these strikes.

Streaming and Revenue Distribution

The rise of streaming platforms has drastically altered the traditional revenue models. While on one hand, platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV+ offer creators more avenues to showcase their work, on the other, they present difficulties in standardizing payment structures, residuals, and royalty definitions. The core of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes revolves around achieving a fair distribution of the vast revenues these platforms generate.

Looking Forward

The current strikes highlight the industry’s ongoing challenges in adapting to the digital age and the complexities involved in revenue distribution and transparency. As both WGA and SAG-AFTRA continue their negotiations with the AMPTP, representing significant players like Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, and more, the industry hopes for a resolution that caters to all stakeholders.

For a deeper dive into the implications of the ongoing strikes and the industry’s trajectory, visit The Hollywood Reporter.