The strike is on. For the first time in 15 years, Hollywood writers have gone on strike as they call for changes in the way they're compensated due to the rise of streaming. The strike began on May 2 following six weeks of negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which did not end in an agreement for a new contract by a May 1 deadline.
"Though our negotiating committee began this process intent on making a fair deal, the studios' responses have been wholly insufficient given the existential crisis writers are facing," the WGA said, while the AMPTP, which represents the major studios and streamers, said it hopes to "reach a deal that is mutually beneficial to writers and the health and longevity of the industry."
The last Hollywood writers' strike stretched on for 100 days from November 2007 to February 2008, bringing television production to a halt across the industry. As was the case back then, viewers of certain types of shows, in particular, will immediately notice that the strike is happening.
What are commentators saying?
The first shows to be affected are those with the shortest lag between writing and airing, especially late-night TV. So The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Real Time with Bill Maher, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and The Daily Show are all going off the air, according to Variety. In prior writers' strikes, late-night shows were on "the de facto frontline," as The Associated Press notes. Most of them went dark for about two months during the previous strike before returning without writers.
Similarly, the strike may bring an end to this season of Saturday Night Live. The sketch show was expected to return on May 6 with host Pete Davidson, but NBC confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that it will "air repeats until further notice starting Saturday, May 6." During the 2007 strike, SNL went dark until its conclusion, so the show's summer hiatus may now begin early. Soap operas might also go off the air given they "typically operate only a few weeks in advance of airdate," as The Wrap notes.
In terms of scripted network shows, the timing of this strike means most of them already have the end of their seasons in the can, but their fall return may be delayed. ABC's Abbott Elementary, for example, aired its season finale in April and was expected to bring its writers' room back to start working on the third season this week, according to Deadline. So if the strike stretches through the summer, shows like Abbott are unlikely to have new episodes ready in time for September. This makes the 2023 strike different from the 2007 one, which was a bit more disruptive in that it happened in the middle of the television season.
But the TV landscape has also changed significantly since 2007 so that many of the most popular series don't return every September like clockwork anymore, meaning viewers may not notice that some of their favorites have experienced a production delay for some time. For that reason, and because there are so many original shows to watch on streaming these days, the effects of the strike may be "less obvious to the audience" in 2023 than in 2007 "unless it goes on for a very, very long time," Vox's Alissa Wilkinson observed.
In February, the Los Angeles Times reported studios and networks were stockpiling scripts ahead of the May 1 deadline, and Variety reports HBO's House of the Dragon will continue filming season 2 because all the writing was finished before the strike. Some shows like NBC's Quantum Leap also already started production on their new seasons so they could bank episodes in case a strike happened, TV Line notes. Shows released by streaming services, meanwhile, are generally in development for longer before viewers see them, so expect there to still be plenty of original content on those platforms for now. In April, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said the service was prepared for a strike due to its "large base of upcoming shows and films from around the world."
Reality television and other unscripted programming won't be affected by the strike. Some movies could be delayed if it's a long strike, though not in the near future considering films are often written years before they come out.
The WGA alleges that the AMPTP's "immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing," while AMPTP says it's "willing to engage in discussions with the WGA in an effort to break this logjam." But CNN noted the "distance between the two sides suggested this could be the start of a long strike." To date, the longest writers' strike on record lasted 153 days.