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The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the coalition of Hollywood studios and streamers that negotiates with labor unions, has broken its silence on major issues that contributed to its deadlock with the Writers Guild of America, which resulted in the ongoing strike.
The Alliance, which has generally kept a low profile during labor talks in recent years, has remained silent since the writers’ union called its current work stoppage after negotiations collapsed on May 1. In the meantime, the writers have explained their version of events, with union negotiators alleging the group had stonewalled on their proposal for A.I.-generated material, that it attempted to create a “day rate” (essentially introduce a day-player option) for comedy-variety writers and declined to negotiate on the WGA’s proposal to create a minimum size for TV writers’ rooms and set a minimum duration. The guild also released a document sharing each of its proposals and how the AMPTP allegedly responded to them, the contents of which have fired its members up in recent days.
“It became very clear tonight that they really weren’t interested in making a deal. So it [the outcome] was really the companies’ decision, not ours,” co-chair of the WGA negotiating committee David Goodman told The Hollywood Reporter after negotiations broke down the night of May 1.
In a four-page, point-by-point document shared by the AMPTP on Thursday, the group in part rebutted that version of events, but primarily explained its position on key proposals such as regulating the use of AI and “mini-rooms.”
On the hot topic of AI, the AMPTP said the technology “raises hard, important creative and legal questions for everybody.” The group added, “writers want to be able to use this technology as part of their creative process, without changing how credits are determined, which is complicated given AI material can’t be copyrighted. So it’s something that requires a lot more discussion, which we’ve committed to doing.” The group noted that the WGA’s agreement still only defines a “writer” as a “person,” meaning AI-generated material would not be eligible for contract coverage or a writing credit.
The AMPTP explained its resistance to the WGA’s proposal to institute a minimum size for writers rooms, as well as a minimum duration of employment. (The WGA has claimed the AMPTP rejected their proposals on this topic and declined to make a counter-offer.) The AMPTP argued the proposal would result in titles hiring writers whether they are needed or not, a “one-size-fits-all solution” that would run counter to creative freedom and challenge writers who are the “sole voice of the show.” The group added, “While the WGA has argued that the proposal is necessary to ‘preserv[e] the writers’ room,’ it is in reality a hiring quota that is incompatible with the creative nature of our industry.”
Regarding the WGA’s claim on May 1 after talks disintegrated that practices by major Hollywood brands have “created a gig economy inside a union workforce,” the AMPTP countered that “most” television writers work on a weekly or episodic basis with a guaranteed number of weeks or episodes for employment and that they have access to a pension fund (after earning $5,000 in any given year) and health plan and paid parental leave (after meeting the $42,000 in four quarters threshold). Moreover, the coalition stated, “The WGA’s own published data shows that the median number of weeks of employment for a writer engaged on a streaming series is between 20 and 24.”
The AMPTP’s document also addressed the guild’s calculations of the value of its offer on wage floors (the value was around $97 million a year, not $41 million per year, it maintained) and expounded on its position on foreign streaming residuals. The union has been pushing to create new streaming residuals that are based on a streaming service’s foreign subscriber count, which the WGA has stated that the AMPTP accepted for the “largest global streaming services,” but rejected for Paramount+ and Max. The AMPTP notes, “subscription fees vary from country to country, and in many countries, the subscription fee is substantially less than it is in the U.S. Nevertheless, the companies have recognized the importance of foreign streaming and have offered to increase the residual.”
Overall, the document does not invalidate the general sense that the WGA and the AMPTP remain far apart in their positions, even as the start of negotiations for a separate union (the Directors Guild of America) approaches, on May 10. The WGA and the AMPTP have not yet disclosed any new dates for negotiations to restart following their May 1 impasse.
On the AMPTP’s end, negotiations have been led by Carol Lombardini, the seasoned executive leading the group since 2009. Lombardini was second-in-command at the group during the 2007-2007 WGA strike, under then-chief negotiator Nick Counter. This is the first major strike on her watch.
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