What To Expect With a Strike

What To Expect With a Strike

I saw this coming back in January when I talked about why we were seeing so many late cancellations of previously renewed shows.

Here we are, less than 5 months later, and we have a writer’s strike. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) have struck.

What Are They Striking Over?

Money, specifically residuals. For the most part, writers for TV get paid up front for the episode and then again every time it re-airs. If you wrote a super popular show, that has a ton of reruns (so Law & Order, right?) then you are making bank. It was hella hard to do, but it was a very American ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ rags to riches saga.

Then came streaming, which butchered residuals. Writers don’t get compensated for multiple release platforms (so if your show is on Disney+ and Netflix, you do not get any residuals), and older contracts were not written with streaming in mind to begin with. The new contracts are pretty weak when it comes to streaming as well.

On top of that, these streamers are incredibly secretive about how popular a show is, so no writer can be sure they’re being fairly compensated. And since streams have been pulling shows off their networks (HBO…), it’s removing every cent of residuals.

This doesn’t even get into how the rates haven’t been adjusted for the current global economy (something most people can related to). Let’s not even think about health car (which according to many writers got canceled as soon as they struck).

All that together results in writers being unable to support themselves.

What Does It Mean for TV?

Streaming shows tend to write it all in one and go, so they’re okay. So are most cable shows, which behave the same way and have mostly finished all scripts. It’s everything on regular linear TV that is about to get hit hard, if they haven’t finished filming.

A lot of shows have wrapped for the season. NBC’s “Law & Order” shows, including “SVU” and “Organized Crime,” just wrapped last week, meaning the footage is in hand with the network and the final episodes of those seasons should air without issue later this month. But CBS’s “FBI” and “FBI: Most Wanted” are still scheduled to shoot this week in New York, so their current seasons could be impacted.

Writers Strike FAQ: Everything You Need to Know About the (Possible) Shutdown

We have a little time, but expect everything to end sooner than normal. This includes late night TV, whose writers work up to the last second every day. But even Soaps will be hit soon, since they can use whatever scripts they have but they won’t be able to edit and update those scripts.

Will It Be As Bad as 2007?


For those of us who were paying attention in 2007-08, the strike derailed everything. Everything. That was because back then, we didn’t do streaming like we do now, and everything was directly related. You wrote, you produced, and you distributed all in one plan.

Oddly enough, it’s thanks to that strike that we have less of an impact today. And in that sense, it’s a little bad for the WGA right now because they made themselves less of a weak link.

But… If the actors and directors strike in solidarity? Well. The term “apocalypse” came to mind.

There’s also one little thing… You know how recently Netflix said they were going to bring in a lot of content from Korea? Yeah. Guess what’s cheap.

Want To Learn More?

There are a lot of good articles out there to help understand this. Here are a couple to get you started.

And Adam Ruins Everything’s Adam Conover has a great breakdown:

I fully support the WGA. If you want to join them, WGA has posted the schedules and locations of their protests.

About Mika A. Epstein

Mika has been deep in fandom since she could say 'Trekkie.' With decades experience in running fansites, developing software, and organizing communities, she's taken on the challenge of delving into the recesses of television for queers long forgotten. Making this site with Tracy is nothing short of serendipity. Mika lives with her wife and their cats in Southern California. Of course she has a hybrid, but she'd rather ride her bicycle.
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