Day 3: The impact of the WGA strike on advertisers

(CREDIT: Ringo Chiu, Courtesy Shutterstock)

Tuesday morning members of The Writers Guild West (WGA) and East (WGA East) put down their pencils, closed their laptops, picked up picket signs and in enthusiastic solidarity, picketed in front of members of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers which includes Apple, Amazon, Disney, Netflix, Paramount, Sony and Warner Bros.

The walkouts took place after talks between the Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers broke off at 12:01 a.m. May 1.

The Guild is seeking higher compensation for writers, higher wage floors across the board, standardizing fees for streaming and theatrical films, expanding span protection (which shields writers being compensated per episode from working for long periods on short-order series), regulating mini rooms and instituting a mandatory two “steps” (points of payment) for feature writers.

We wanted to make you aware of the current situation between the WGA (Writers Guild of America) and the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers) and offer a quick POV on the potential strike.  

In today’s streaming world, content stays on one platform, reducing chances of additional compensation/residuals. With a lack of viewership transparency, writers cannot gauge if they are being compensated fairly. In addition to that, market forces have streamers looking to save wherever they can, which means fewer writers are doing more work for less money. Most streaming platforms, on average, order 10 episodes per season. Even broadcast and linear television have reduced episode orders from 24 to 20 to sometimes 10 episodes. 

All of this means a reduction of revenue for writers. While films have a few more distribution points (theatrical, PVOD, SVOD, linear and streaming), compensation still seems to have been reduced. Members of the WGA have called for a vote on Strike Authorization between April 11 and April 17. If negotiations have not reached a more agreeable point, writers will start to strike on May 1, when their current contract officially expires. 


While the impact possibly won’t be felt by audiences for months there is some immediate impact being felt by late-night TV such as The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Drew Barrymore just announced she has backed out of hosting the MTV Awards on Sunday. SNL also cut its season short. Pete Davidson, Kieran Culkin and Jennifer Coolidge were scheduled to host.

So where does this leave advertisers? There will be films and shows in production during the strike (if it happens) with plenty of conversations about partnerships, refining entertainment strategies and identifying licensing, placement, and integration opportunities. 

Reel 360 News spoke with Jennifer Cowan, VP of Entertainment at The Marketing Arm.

“Right now, there is no immediate impact on clients,” Cowan shared. “Our sources tell us industry executives have been stockpiling scripts into Q4 2023 for both film and some television—some shows already have full seasons written. If no rewrites are needed, these could all go into production as planned. Reality shows will still have opportunities for brands as they are not WGA members. We do believe network shows will be the most impacted as their writing cycle tends to be one to two episodes at a time when they typically return in July (if they return in July).”

Cowan adds, “These shows could fall behind their usual timelines, thus pushing production and airdates back. Film won’t see much of an immediate impact. Clients have been placed/integrated into already shot programming (TV and film) that is slated to air in Q3 and Q4. Ideally, productions can get back to business, get caught up and not miss too much airtime.” 

While we cannot predict exactly what will happen with the strike, specifically its duration, as productions and pick-ups are almost back to pre-Covid norms, the last thing the industry wants is to impede the momentum that has been gained since the Covid era.”

While Cowan hopes for a short strike, the writers and studios are at a wide impasse. The guild wants to see pay and benefits increased by $429 million over three years, but says that the studios only offered $86 million.

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