After more than three months of a work stoppage that is estimated to have cost the Los Angeles economy more than $3 billion, the Hollywood writers strike is finally over. On Tuesday, members of the Writers Guild of America voted unanimously to return to their posts. The writers are scheduled to ratify a new three-year contract on Feb. 25.
The biggest fallout of the strike is the issue of new media—the distribution and viewing of programs on the Internet and other mobile mediums including streaming video and digital downloads. Going forward, writers will now share a percentage of gross distribution revenues for films and television shows they write, which eventually run on the Internet. This matter will arguably only escalate as more people watch entertainment on devices other than TV and it was tension around this issue and the seemingly immovable position of the studios, which led to the strike and its duration in the first place.
Analysts contend that it is difficult to determine who benefits in the near term from the new agreement. Nevertheless, writers can at least celebrate that they will not be left on the sidelines the way they were left out of revenues for the home video market during the last writers strike in 1988. Assessing WGA member sentiment, “There have been mixed reactions from writers,” says veteran TV writer David Wyatt, who has written for such shows as Martin, Whoopi, and Cosby and who served as a strike captain during the walkout. “The question is whether or not the gains in the future from new media will exceed the losses incurred as a result of the strike?”
There’s no argument that the strike has taken a toll on the industry. For viewers eager to see new episodes of their favorite shows, fans of The CW’s show Girlfriends starring Tracee Ellis Ross, will be sad to learn that the show’s final episodes aired this past Monday. Citing the current television environment, the network issued a statement saying, “The prolonged strike has changed business conditions and our programming strategy for the balance of the 2007/2008 season. To better focus its creative and financial resources, The CW will only resume production on shows that are in consideration for renewal next year.” The statement went on to say that Girlfriends would be cancelled.
The demise of Girlfriends is particularly poignant given that most African American writers in Hollywood tend to work on African American-themed shows. “Removing one black show from television removes a huge chunk of working black writers,” laments Wyatt. In addition to Girlfriends, shows reported to possibly not be returning include ABC’s Cavemen, NBC’s Bionic Woman, CBS’s Cane and Fox’s K-Ville. Furthermore, while The CW’s Everybody Hates Chris has reportedly shot its entire season and has multiple episodes to air, the network has not ordered new shows, suggesting that it too could be in jeopardy. With Girlfriends already gone, the fall of Chris Rock’s Golden Globe-nominated sitcom would be catastrophic for black writers in Tinseltown given the paucity of