Warner Bros. Discovery continues to feel the impact of the ongoing writers and actors strike. Following last week’s news that the company could lose up to $500 million in adjusted earnings for 2023, executives are reiterating their desire to resolve the strikes and “get back to work,” according to Deadline.
“From an operational/financial perspective, we’re really shut down,” Warner Bros Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels said at an investor conference hosted by Bank of America Thursday. “There’s very little content production going on right now.”
The company is just one of the many studios feeling the strain as The Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA unions have yet to reach deals with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). With regular production on hold for many, the upcoming October 1 deadline to find common ground will determine the fate of the 2023-24 broadcast season, with countless TV shows and movie projects hanging in the balance.
Wiedenfels said this is an “unfortunate situation” and urges the studio to work toward finding a solution where “everybody feels they are respected and rewarded fairly.”
In the meantime, networks have been reaching for unscripted content to fill empty programming gaps. ABC game shows like Celebrity Jeopardy!, Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, Shark Tank, AFV, The Golden Bachelor and The Bachelor in Paradise all claimed primetime slots going into October. FOX has turned to reality TV with some animated shows and sports events in the mix. Despite facing the prospect of a drastically different programming lineup, a Gallup poll showed that a majority of Americans support the striking writers and actors.
Vacant primetime slots are just one of the effects of the writers strike, which has been going on for over 130 days. The motion picture and sound recording industries have lost 17,000 jobs “reflecting strike activity,” according to an employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
During WBD’s second-quarter earnings call in August, Wiedenfels said the company saved $100 million from the strike. However, it’s costing studios millions with the lack of new content meaning no future revenue streams.
The striking Hollywood writers and actors are demanding concessions like higher pay and job security. The viewer migration to streaming services has impacted how writers get paid and not for the better. Streamed shows have fewer episodes and longer breaks between seasons in comparison to broadcast TV series resulting in smaller paychecks for writers. There are also far fewer residuals, or those checks paid out to writers and actors after the show airs.
SAG-AFTRA actors are striking in solidarity with writers but have their own list of demands – higher pay along with more contributions to pension and healthcare funds as well as recalculated residuals members are paid through streaming service revenue. The union also wants changes for the self-taping audition process and, like writers, protection against the use of AI.
With writers and actors prepared to picket into next year, we’re likely to see more job and financial loss juxtaposed against increasingly rare successes like Barbie and Oppenheimer.
-Kayla Wassell contributed to this story