NEW YORK (News21USA) — Months of labor unrest in Hollywood are coming to an end, but the post-strike landscape awaiting actors and writers may be far from a happy ending.
The strikes were historic in their length and cost, causing an estimated $6 billion in economic loss and leaving hundreds of thousands out of work. As Hollywood began returning to production Thursday and stars hit red carpets again, many were surely still nursing the wounds of a bitter dispute with studios, even after a deal that gave actors a steep raise in pay. the minimum wage and protections on the use of artificials. intelligence.
The SAG-AFTRA board of directors will vote on approving the contract Friday afternoon.
But as actors trade their picket signs for audition sides and call sheets, they will return to an industry still in the midst of a painful transformation and streaming upheaval.
The strikes were largely sparked by the streaming wars, a digital rush to populate platforms like Disney+ and HBO Max (now simply “Max”) with enough content to rival Netflix. That hasty transition disrupted much of the entertainment economy. One of the most contentious issues in SAG-AFTRA’s negotiations with the studios was the union’s attempt to earn a percentage (1 or 2%) of broadcast revenues, to replace lost residuals. In the end, the actors accepted a bonus tied to the audience.
But even before the strike, every studio was reexamining its streaming strategy. After several years of rampant green lights, most are pulling back, looking to make fewer series and movies, cutting staff and desperately searching for a path to profitability. Wall Street, no longer enthusiastic about subscriber numbers, also wants to make a profit.
The aftermath of the strike may seem less like a party and more like a hangover.
“The streaming business is completely screwed. There is too much content and no one seems to be able to profit from it,” says Jonathan Taplin, director emeritus of the USC Annenberg Innovation Laboratory and author of “The End of Reality: How Four Billionaires Are Selling a Fantasy Metaverse Future”, Mars and Crypto.”
Both attacks, Taplin says, were successful because the guilds gained bulwarks against possible annihilation by artificial intelligence. But the road ahead, during which he expects linear television to collapse and some streaming services to close, will be tense.
«The whole business is in complete upheaval,» Taplin says. «It will take care of itself in the next three to five years, but it will be painful.»
This is the world that awaits actors when they rush back to sets: better salaries but fewer jobs and intense competition. Puck’s Matt Belloni wrote: «What should be a moment of relief and celebration in Hollywood is more like what soldiers experience in countless war movies: the horrors of battle give way to the equally grim reality of the new world for which they fought.
Still, the strikes recalibrated power in Hollywood, reaping benefits for actors and writers and rallying union support across the industry. More battles are coming. The contract of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), which represents the crew members, expires at the end of July.
Meanwhile, for months studies have pointed out that they are shrinking in size. Earlier this week, Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Bob Iger, in an earnings call in which he touted the financial benefits of more than 8,000 job cuts, said the company is focused on consolidation: «Win less, focus more on quality.
“At the time the pandemic hit, we were approaching a huge increase in what we were making,” Iger said. “And I’ve always felt that quantity can be a really negative when it comes to quality. And I think that’s exactly what happened. “We lost some concentration.”
Netflix, which previously set its sights on a new original film each week, has said it is now aiming for about half that number. Hulu, which Disney plans to combine with Disney+ after acquiring Comcast’s stake, is losing weight. Peacock lost $2.8 billion this year, Comcast said; announced layoffs in its marketing department on Thursday.
Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has taken drastic measures to get Max in order, while the post-merger studio is $43 billion in debt.
«We are going through a generational break,» Zaslav said Wednesday. «Going through that with a streaming service that’s losing billions of dollars is really hard to go on the offensive.»
Cancellations have become more common as streamers become more selective. Due in part to the strikes, series production will fall for the first time in years in 2023 after reaching an all-time high last year, when 599 original series were made. Peak television, some say, is over.
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, chief negotiator for SAG-AFTRA, remains optimistic about what lies ahead.
«I recognize that during a strike, sometimes the rhetoric gets heated. People sometimes say things with the intention of generating a reaction,» Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said Wednesday. «And I think we’ll really see in the coming days, weeks, and months and months what the true intentions of the industry are. «But my expectation is that they really want to get people back to work and that they will.»