US entertainment studios in talks with writers as possibility of a strike looms

Thousands of Writers Guild of America members and supporters hold signs during a large strike outside Fox studio.
Thousands of Writers Guild of America members and supporters hold signs during a large strike outside Fox studio. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood writers and representatives of movie and television conglomerates on Monday resumed contract talks aimed at staving off a strike as early as Tuesday that could black out TV talk shows and soap operas.

The 9,000-member Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers spent much of the weekend in negotiations ahead of a contract expiration deadline, Hollywood trade outlets reported.

If there is no agreement, the WGA is prepared to call for a stoppage and picketing of the big TV and movie studios as early as Tuesday morning.

The two sides have imposed a media blackout on the talks, centred on the revolution in the television industry that has seen the arrival of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, and a decline from around 22 episodes to 8-10 for scripted comedy or drama shows.

The WGA says its members, who are paid per episode, have suffered an average 23 per cent drop in earnings in the past three years.

Royalties for shows sold on DVDs, streaming platforms and cable TV are also at issue, along with funding for the WGA's health plan.

If a strike is called, audiences would first see the impact on late night talk shows, which use teams of writers to pen topical jokes.

Daytime soap operas would be next affected but most TV network comedy and drama shows due for broadcast in the next 2-3 months have already been filmed.

The last WGA strike, in 2007-2008, went on for 100 days.