Studios, Writers Guild Avert Strike With Last-Minute Deal

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The WGA boasted of $130 million in gains in a letter sent to its membership shortly after the agreement was reached.

Talks between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers went down to the wire Monday night but ultimately resulted in a three-year deal, averting a threatened walkout that could have cost jobs and homes, hit the California economy with a $200 million blow per week, accelerated cord-cutting and driven audiences off linear channels and onto digital platforms.

David Young, executive director of WGA West, confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that a deal had been reached. Leaving the closed-door meetings, Patric Verrone, who was WGA president the last time the guild went on strike in 2007-2008, told THR it was a good deal for the writers. Michael Winship, president of Writers Guild East, echoed Verrone's comments and added that the union effectively mobilized the membership with the authorization.

The WGA and the AMPTP released a short joint statement early Tuesday morning confirming the length of the deal: "The Writers Guilds of America, West and East and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have concluded negotiations and have reached a tentative agreement on terms for a new three-year collective bargaining agreement."

The last Hollywood walkout lasted 100 days and cost the California economy an estimated $2.1 billion to $2.5 billion. This time, the parties managed to avoid a sequel and instead bridged their differences and the significant dollar gap that separated them.

A letter that the WGA negotiating committee sent to guild members touts various gains that were made as part of the agreement that's being recommended for ratification. Specifically, the WGA claims it made gains in minimums and contribution increases to the the guild's health plan. The WGA also claims it "further expanded our protections in options and exclusivity."

On the issue of short TV seasons, the guild received a definition of 2.4 weeks of work for each episodic fee. Any work beyond that span will require additional payment for writer-producers.

The agreement includes a 15 percent increase in pay TV residuals, approximately $15 million in increases in high-budget SVOD residuals and residuals for comedy-variety writers in pay TV.

The new agreement also provides "job protection on parental leave."

"Did we get everything we wanted? No. Everything we deserve? Certainly not," the letter states. "But because we had the near-unanimous backing of you and your fellow writers, we were able to achieve a deal that will net this Guild’s members $130 million more, over the life of the contract, than the pattern we were expected to accept. That result, and that resolve, is a testament to you, your courage, and your faith in us as your representatives."

The letter closed with the guild's negotiating committee saying its members' "voices were indeed heard."

Among the issues that remained in play as talks went down to the wire, not addressed by the WGA letter, include the following: 

* Script parity, the WGA demand that scripts for all platforms be subject to the same wage floors regardless of the production budget.

* Basic wage increases and “outsize increases,” the WGA insistence that a variety of categories of writer get extra-large salary increases.

More details will emerge over the next days and weeks.

May 2, 6:51 a.m.: Updated with more details about the agreement from the WGA.