Matthew Simmons/WireImage
James Hibberd
April 19, 2017 AT 11:35 AM EDT

A Hollywood strike might actually happen after all.

After months of rumblings, media coverage, and negotiations, Hollywood writers will begin voting Wednesday on whether to go on strike, setting the stage for the first industry-wide walkout of the Peak TV era. Here’s how it works: Over the next five days, Writers Guild of America members will vote on whether to authorize their leadership to call a strike. Reports suggest that they will. If the WGA and Hollywood cannot reach a new agreement by the time their current three-year contract expires on May 1, then the WGA is expected to call a strike and writers will silence their keyboards.

Here are some of the most common questions answered — and how a strike is expected to impact your favorite shows.

What do the writers want?
Briefly: Higher wage minimums, better health care benefits (this is a biggie), residuals on streaming commensurate with traditional reruns and to be able to work on multiple shows at once, according to the New York Times. Studios counter that TV ratings are down, viewers aren’t watching commercials anymore and movie attendance hasn’t been rising. WGA then counters that counter with the number 51 — which is how many billions of dollars in profit they claim studios made off creative content in 2016.

Will there really be a strike?
Dunno. We keep hearing writers want to avoid a strike. And the studios definitely want to avoid a strike. And yet, here we are, with a strike vote looming. One major reason for the vote is simply leverage — if writers authorize a strike it’s a demonstration of will that the WGA can present at the negotiation table. Insiders say things like “50-50” when asked about the odds of an actual walkout. One description we’ve heard of the WGA’s mood is that younger members seem more inclined to hit the picket line while survivors of the last WGA strike in 2007 rather not suffer through another one.

How will broadcast shows be affected? 
All scripted programming would lose their writers for the duration of the strike. Broadcast network dramas and comedies have likely completed their scripts for the current season (especially when a strike is looming, networks push for writing staffs to get scripts finished by the deadline). So dramas and comedies running through the end of May will not likely be impacted. Late-night talk shows, however, are expected to switch to reruns. Daytime soaps — which grind out new episodes five days a week — would also get derailed. And any summertime dramas or comedies could be impacted.

What about shows on cable and streaming services?
They will also lose their writers, but since they don’t tend to stick to a September-May season like broadcast, the impact will be on a show-by-show basis. For instance: FX’s Fargo season 3 premieres Wednesday but will be fine since we hear all the scripts are done. But AMC’s The Walking Dead typically starts production May 1 and could get pushed back from its usual October launch if the strike goes on long enough. During the last strike, the first season of Breaking Bad was famously cut short (which is why it’s only seven episodes long). A greater impact could be felt by struggling shows, as the disruption might push networks to cancel some underperforming titles if they have to be delayed, IndieWire reported.

And movies? What about those?
The big screen impact there is fuzzier since films aren’t recurring on an annual schedule like TV shows. But during the last strike, some titles were hastily written to go into production under the wire (including, famously, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen; X-Men Origins: Wolverine was also impacted). A protracted strike could put a dent into Hollywood’s stream of output — at least in terms of quality — that manifests at the box office many months later.

Would there be anything good about a writer’s strike?
In the Peak TV era, definitely: You can finally catch up on all those shows you haven’t had time to watch.

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