Why the Hollywood strikes are not over even after screenwriters and studios reach agreement

Hollywood is getting back to work.

The Writers Guild of America and Hollywood studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, reached a tentative deal to end the 146-day screenwriters' strike late Sunday night.

CEOs of Disney, Netflix, Warner Bros. Discovery and NBCUniversal's studios stepped in last week to avert a stalemate, holding meetings with the writers' union through the weekend to settle thorny issues of pay, benefits and guaranteed work.

But the strike, which has largely shuttered work on American movies, TV dramas and sitcoms, and late-night talk shows, was followed by another walkout by actors on July 14. Screen Actors Guild president Fran Drescher ("The Nanny") took a hardline stance and laid plans for a six-month walkout, acknowledging that many others − from caterers to makeup artists − were caught in the crossfire and left jobless.

"The gravity of a commitment like this is not lost on any of us. It's major," she told USA TODAY in July. "But we also see that we have no future and no livelihood unless we take this action, unfortunately."

What's happening now, and when will your entertainment diet go back to normal? We explain.

Are the Hollywood strikes over yet?

No, not quite.

The writers' battle with the AMPTP, which handles labor negotiations on behalf of eight major studios and streaming services, has ended. Picketing has been suspended, and the writers were permitted to return to work Wednesday while the full WGA membership votes on the settlement terms, expected by early October.

While writers can resume penning scripts, the actors, represented by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, have to negotiate their own settlement. Labor experts expect they will use some of what WGA agrees to as a template.

SAG-AFTRA statement began negotiations with the studios on Oct. 2, their first meeting since the actors' strike began.

What's at stake? Both say they are earning less money as TV seasons grow shorter in an age of streaming: Where a network sitcom would guarantee 22 episodes a year, streaming shows often produce as few as eight or 10 episodes. Actors and writers also earn fewer royalty payments from syndication or overseas runs of shows and movies as streamers demand worldwide exclusive rights to them.

Terms of the tentative screenwriters' deal were not immediately made public.

"The Drew Barrymore Show" is among daytime talk shows that could quickly return, for real, now that a settlement has reached between studios and the Writers Guild of America.
"The Drew Barrymore Show" is among daytime talk shows that could quickly return, for real, now that a settlement has reached between studios and the Writers Guild of America.

Will my favorite talk shows return when writers go back to work?

Yes. Late-night talk shows − the first to be noticeably missing when the WGA strike began − are back Oct. 2. But Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers can't book actors to promote past or current movie or TV projects until the actors' strike is settled: Such promotion is explicitly banned by SAG, even on social media. But the restriction wouldn't hurt other shows that don't depend on such guests, including HBO's "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver" and "Real Time With Bill Maher."

Daytime talk shows also can return, although some − including ABC's "The View" and the syndicated "Live With Kelly and Mark" − are produced under separate contracts and remained on the air. Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson and Drew Barrymore − who announced a plan to resume without writers but quickly backpedaled after an outcry by strikers, as did Hudson and CBS' "The Talk" − should also resume fairly quickly. ("The Talk" returns Oct. 9.) NBC's "Saturday Night Live" is unlikely to be back until both strikes are settled.

However, getting writers back to work gives studios a head start on writing movies and scripted series, so that production can resume quickly when actors return.

Why did the studios suddenly want to settle?

The AMPTP and the unions took aggressive postures as the WGA strike dragged on (the last one, in 2007-08, lasted 100 days). The studios argued in previous contract talks that streaming has upended traditional business models, and they needed more time to sort out how that affects the economics of TV and movie production. A vast increase in the number of projects, dubbed "Peak TV" by one executive, followed streamers' desire to build subscribers at any cost. But their voracious appetites have cooled amid Wall Street's demands for profits, and fewer movies and TV shows are on the horizon. The unions say they've been patient, but view 2023 as an inflection point: If they don't share more of the fruits of their work now, they never will.

Yet pressure has mounted on studios, many of which have seen declines in their stock prices since the WGA strike began. While they're saving money they would otherwise spend to produce shows and movies, they're losing more revenue at the box office, as well as ad money from lower TV ratings. And streaming services risk losing subscribers if they run out of new programming.

Olivia Swann and Todd Lasance, Australian actors unknown to American viewers, star in "NCIS: Sydney," a foreign edition of the long-running franchise that CBS will use to fill its fall schedule during prolonged Hollywood strikes.
Olivia Swann and Todd Lasance, Australian actors unknown to American viewers, star in "NCIS: Sydney," a foreign edition of the long-running franchise that CBS will use to fill its fall schedule during prolonged Hollywood strikes.

What happens if talks break down?

If the actors' strike isn't settled in the coming weeks ― no talks have been scheduled ― broadcasters will have a hard time salvaging the traditional TV season, which began Sept. 25. Their schedules are littered with reality competitions, game shows, reruns and foreign imports with few recognizable stars. (NBC produced and banked episodes of a handful of new and returning dramas, including reboots of "Quantum Leap" and "Magnum, P.I.," before the strikes.)

Streamers have longer lead times, and movie studios longer still, so you probably haven't noticed much change in the number of new and returning shows ... yet. But even after a settlement, an emptier pipeline means there'll be fewer shows next year while producers catch up. Some studios and networks have delayed premieres of new movies ("Dune 2") and series ("Fargo") to spread out their slates and fill empty spots on their calendars.

What movies are delayed due to writers strike?

Several movies and awards shows have been pushed back by the strike, with some films delayed by years.

Disney postponed the release of the next three installments of James Cameron's blockbuster "Avatar" series: “Avatar 3” moves to Dec. 19, 2025, “Avatar 4” to Dec. 21, 2029, and “Avatar 5” to Dec. 19, 2031.

Marvel has reshuffled its cinematic universe, with “Captain America: Brave New World” moving to July 26, 2024. "Thunderbolts" pushing back to Dec. 20, 2024, and “Blade” moving to Feb. 14, 2025.

Aside from delaying "Dune 2," Warner Bros. has moved "Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire" a month to April 12, 2024, while animated "Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim" is now slated for Dec. 13, 2024.

Sony moved “Kraven the Hunter" to Aug. 30, 2024 (Labor Day weekend), and “Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse” was taken off the release calendar for now. The untitled sequel to "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" moved to March 29, 2024.

What's on, what's off: Where are my TV shows? Frustrated viewers' guide to strike-hit, reality-filled fall season

When will 'Grey's Anatomy,' 'NCIS' and 'SNL' come back?

If actors follow writers back to work, production could resume late this year and new TV episodes could begin airing by February. Sitcoms require a shorter production schedule, and can air three to four weeks after they're shot; dramas take longer to produce and edit. But shows like "Grey's" and "NCIS" are likely to air 10 to 13 episodes at most, compared to 18 to 22 in a typical season. "SNL" is written the same week it airs, so its return would be much speedier, but there's no chance its customary 21-week season would remain intact.

Contributing: Bryan Alexander and Charles Trepany, USA TODAY, and The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Are the Hollywood strikes over? Screenwriters and studios make deal