Hollywood writers declare strike for first time since 2007

Hollywood sign

On Tuesday morning, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) called into effect a strike against the major Hollywood studios, as well as studios tied to several streaming services (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc.).

The main reasons for the strike, according to members of the WGA: the use of “mini rooms,” or having writers work on scripts on basically a “gig” basis (and paid less), instead of being fully employed; the possible use of artificial intelligence (AI) by studios in creating content; and modernizing residuals to reflect streaming, since that’s basically replaced second-run syndication reruns and DVD sales.

Previous strikes and new tech’s impact

TV remote
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

WGA strikes tend to go on for fairly long periods of time, as Wikipedia’s page about Hollywood strikes shows. How long previous strikes lasted:

  • 1960: 21 weeks (five months)
  • 1981: Three months
  • 1988: 22 weeks (about five and a half months, the longest WGA strike to date)
  • 2007-2008: 14 weeks (about three and a half months)

Various reports, as well as the above, indicate that we shouldn’t expect anything resolved anytime soon. Barring some unforeseen resolution, I’d say August is likely the earliest for any resolution.

I note the previous strikes, like this one, involved new technology’s impact on writers. The 1981 strike, for instance, was about home video and pay TV revenue (then-new innovations). The 2007-2008 strike involved revenue over DVD sales, the impact of then-new media channels such as the internet, and reality programming.

Streaming revenue is a big focus, for obvious reasons. I also notice AI being brought up; as I wrote before, I can see plenty of companies trying to pull a “CNET” and using AI as a way to save on paying writers.

Speaking of dodging paying writers, the AFL-CIO (who’s siding with the writers, obviously) noted on Twitter the gargantuan salaries Hollywood’s CEOs are being paid, especially David Zaslav of Warner Bros. Discovery (a company that’s been slashing and burning its catalog material to save money):

People of color and LGBTQ writers affected as well

People of color and LGBTQ writers are also affected by the writers’ strike. A 2022 WGA report states as of 2020, 22.6% of screenwriters are people of color, up from an alarmingly low 5.2% in 2010. For TV writers, the number of people of color went from 13.6% in 2010 to 37% in 2020, which comes closer than the movies do to reflecting US demographics. Openly LGBTQ people, meanwhile, hold 11.6% of TV writing jobs and 6.2% of screenwriting jobs.

That said, discrimination is still ongoing in Hollywood. As The Root notes, there’s still a bunch of obstacles for Black writers who want to find work in Hollywood.

How the strike will affect TV and movies

2007 WGA writers strike at Paramount Studios
Photo of 2007 WGA writers strike by Lord Jim is licensed under CC BY 2.0. (Flickr)

The media landscape of 2023 differs noticeably from the last strike in 2007-2008, with streaming services now prominent. Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, etc. have a large catalog of TV shows and movies that should make riding out the current strike easier for viewers now than during the strike in the late aughts. (And both were certainly easier to get through than the strike in 1988, when there were fewer alternatives to TV reruns.) That said, streaming services are impacted by this as well: there’ll be less new material in the pipeline for the foreseeable future.

Network TV viewers can expect an increased reliance on reality programming and material filmed ahead of time, for starters. So expect a summer and fall network TV lineup more reliant on reality programming, and delays to the fall lineup. Case in point: Disney’s moving “Dancing With the Stars” off of Disney+ (where it’d gone for the previous season) and back to ABC.

Movie and TV studios claim they’ve prepared for the Hollywood writers strike by stockpiling scripts ahead of time, and are planning to continue filming some TV shows and films. However, observers note that writers play a big role in movie/TV production even after the scripts are handed out—something they won’t be able to pull off without writers on deck. (Rewrites and last-minute alternations to polish said scripts, for starters.) Case in point: “Star Trek: The Next Generation” saw the quality of its second season impacted by the 1988 writers’ strike. Stockpiling scripts (which couldn’t be rewritten or altered), relying on a clip show for the season finale, and even recycling a script (from a proposed but unproduced late 1970s “Star Trek” revival) for the season premiere didn’t help.

As for movies, like during the pandemic, expect a lot of film releases to get pushed back. The strike will certainly affect major franchises, such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Finally, I expect TV networks to rely on filling air time by airing non-American TV shows, likely from our northern neighbor, Canada. (Possibly also from the United Kingdom and Australia, though less likely given the greater differences in accents and culture.) This has been done before during previous strikes, as well as during the pandemic lockdown. Streaming services, however, are already all over non-American programming—a lot of their libraries heavily feature such material. See: Netflix, which has made hits in the United States (and worldwide) out of non-American shows, such as South Korea’s “Squid Game.”


I hope the Hollywood writers on strike get what they’re looking for from the studios and streaming services. Also, this is a reminder why unions still matter.

For those who don’t recall the previous strikes, I expect some things to be a repeat of the state of media during the 2020 pandemic lockdowns. Basically, delays in film releases, and a heavy reliance by TV networks and streaming services on reruns, reality shows, and non-American/back catalog material. Given the numerous media options available nowadays, most people won’t be lacking for entertainment for however long the strike lasts.

Photo by Dewi Jones on Unsplash

Anthony Dean

Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.

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