Ongoing actor and writer strikes will cause major disruptions for television shows and movies in the year ahead, explains experts
The Writers Guild of America strike has lasted more than four months now, with the actors guild strike coming up on two months of the same. As the concurrent strikes have grown longer and longer, the repercussions on television shows and movies have become more and more prominent for audiences.
“Most of the immediate effects of the writers’ strike in May and even the actors’ strike in July did not affect availability of programming,” said James Ivory, a Virginia Tech media technology expert. Ivory answered questions about what the consequences of the ongoing strike could be for viewers, producers, actors and writers — and for those who appear to defy the strikes.
Q: What are the direct effects of the ongoing strike on programming?
“Reports attribute several major film releases underperforming at the box office to lack of visible promotion from actors, and announcements that eagerly anticipated film and television releases will have delayed or yet-unknown release dates are getting fans’ attention. Scripted series for the traditional 2023-2024 broadcast television season have also been heavily disrupted at this point.”
Q: Why hasn’t an agreement been reached?
“It is a tough spot for all. The writers and actors can point to stagnant wages over the years and dwindling roles because of trends in production processes such as fewer episodes per season for some programming. There are also looming worries about misuse of artificial intelligence to trim writers’ and actors’ paid time on duty. Meanwhile, production companies are dealing with a lot of red ink in streaming revenues — even the giant services are struggling to make profits. The duration of the strike even under immense financial strain for all involved tells us how thin the margins are when trying to find a fair way to divide up revenues in the streaming era.”
Q: Why has controversy enveloped Drew Barrymore’s decision to resume her talk show?
“Some details in the nature of the contract that Drew Barrymore’s program has with the actors guild support a claim that technically, she is not breaking the actor’s strike, though not everyone agrees. She is under heavy criticism for breaking the spirit of it at the very least by resuming during the strikes. Her program will be picketed, and Barrymore was uninvited from a scheduled role to host the National Book Awards.”
Q: How are the writers and actors faring as the strikes continue?
“While audiences are only really starting to feel the strike, writers and actors have been hit hard in the wallets for a long time. The vast majority of these strikers were not making exorbitant sums of money before the strike, so they have been doing it especially tough without income. Let’s hope the strike can be resolved and that a broadly sustainable economic model for a streaming-dominated media landscape can be found.”
James Ivory is a professor in the Virginia Tech Department of English. His primary research interests deal with social and psychological dimensions of new media and communication technologies, with a focus on the content and effects of technological features of new entertainment media, such as video games. His expertise has been cited in The Washington Post and USA Today.
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