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Why We’re Pausing Our Netflix & Hulu Previews Until the WGA Strike is Over

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Photo oof the WGA Strike of 2007 by Jengod via Wikimedia Commons. We couldn’t find a Creative Commons one for the current strike

Dear Broke-Ass Reader,

This writer’s digest of the upcoming month’s offerings on Netflix and Hulu has been interrupted by the Writers’ Guild of America (WGA) strike. This interruption will continue until the strike is resolved, hopefully in the WGA’s favor.  

To understand why this action was taken, this nice summation by Hamilton Nolan offers a good starting point:

“One broad way to think about it…is that the [TV and film] industry has changed—much of it has moved from movie theaters and ad-supported TV networks, to streaming platforms that make money off subscriptions–and the writers need to change the way they’re compensated, in order to reflect the new reality of the business…”

For example, the WGA contract that just expired was written a time long before subscription-based streaming television was a thing. However, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) has declined to update writer compensation methods for this new entertainment business model. 

That’s not the only way streaming has made life worse for writers working in Hollywood. The glut of TV series that Netflix and Hulu, among others, deliver are made possible with shorter seasons of 10-14 episodes and mini-writer’s rooms of three or four people (A broadcast TV season by comparison runs for 22 to 26 episodes and uses a writer’s room twice the size of a streaming series’ room). For the upper-level writers who wind up working in such rooms, the mini-room system in practice creates a back-door pay cut.  

For the mid-level and beginning scriptwriters, the changes brought by streaming TV series have made a professional career or even a decent living as a Hollywood writer more difficult if not impossible. Writers learn to become producers thanks to an on-the-job apprenticeship involving such on-set experiences as rewriting on the fly or learning the ropes behind producing a series. Thanks to the mini-room system, getting such experience is now a lot rarer. George R.R. Martin, creator of the Game of Thrones books and a longtime TV writer, breaks down this whole aspect in this post.

Unemployment in the writing area for as much as ⅘ of the working year has now become a frequent phenomenon. Streamers don’t follow set TV seasons, so a writer scrambling to find a new show to work on after their current show, usually ends up unemployed by circumstance. Finally, thanks to streamers’ figurative death grip on their content (aka what the writers and other creative personnel produce), writers have lost the financial cushion provided by residuals from syndication or Blu-Rays. Jeanie Bergen’s “I’m A TV Writer On Food Stamps” (free access for a limited time) provides a personal accounting of these problems.

Netflix’s chief content officer Bela Bejaria may claim there is a lack of room for shows that don’t immediately become streaming hits. But that short term mentality also creates the long term problem of reversing diversity gains in Hollywood’s writers’ rooms. Far too many scriptwriters of color are still in the mid-level or beginning stages of their career. The aforementioned already shrinking pay and lack of writers’ room experience puts such non-white writers at a bigger career disadvantage than white professional writers. Why take a chance on a talented but untested writer of color when there’s a more experienced white writer available? Is it also a coincidence that Netflix and Amazon Prime cancelled such lesbian-friendly shows as “Atypical” and “A League Of Their Own” (Thanks to Jireh Deng’s “The WGA Strike Is More Than An Issue Of Pay” for the insights quoted above). 

Over the past decade, the streaming-first model has increased the entertainment industry’s total revenue from $155 billion to $220 billion. Yet writers such as Bergen have unsurprisingly not shared the benefits of this financial cornucopia. As Hamilton Nolan notes,   

“Businesses themselves do this all the time. They move to where the money is, adapt in order to get it, the same way organisms move and adapt to new food sources. But workers are usually left behind in this equation…If an industry is able to cut its existing workers’ compensation by tying it to revenue sources that are drying up, businesses love it! They seek to maintain the maximum ability to adapt for themselves, while treating their work force as a disposable natural resource to be mined, used up, and then abandoned, as business dictates.”

To write for Broke-Ass Stuart means championing the broke-ass over such people who profit hugely from such writer exploitation as Netflix’s Ted Sarandos. Sarandos had a 2022 pay package of $50.3 million; nearly half of all WGA writers work at MBA minimum weekly pay. Bergen mentions she had to do nannying and dog walking to supplement her minimum scripting pay.  

AMPTP, of which Netflix and Hulu are members, have rejected all of WGA’s demands to update writers’ working arrangements to enable them to earn a reasonable living in this new streaming world. In other words, AMPTP’s trying to turn WGA’s unionized workplace into glorified gig work.  

That’s why this writer supports such WGA strike demands as extending weekly minimum payments to cover post-production, increasing the size of a prospective show’s writer’s room to at least six writers, and establishing transparency to determine viewer-based residuals. That support also means doing whatever he can to help the WGA cause, such as donating to the Entertainment Community Fund.  

This writer’s monthly streaming previews point readers’ eyeballs in the direction of worthwhile programs and films coming up on Netflix and Hulu. However, these worthwhile programs and films shouldn’t have to come at the expense of pushing the writers who create these works into poverty. Withholding these previews until the strike ends (hopefully in the WGA’s favor) is this writer’s gesture of support.    


Peter Wong

P.S. IndieWire has a nice summary of the issues involved in Writer’s Strike 2023 here.

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Peter Wong

Peter Wong

I've been reviewing films for quite a few years now, principally for the online publication Beyond Chron. My search for unique cinematic experiences and genre dips have taken me everywhere from old S.F. Chinatown movie theaters showing first-run Jackie Chan movies to the chilly slopes of Park City. Movies having cat pron instantly ping my radar.