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Deal! Hollywood avoids strike, writers agree to new contract

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Sorry Donald Trump: Late night comedy shows aren’t shutting down after all.

Hollywood film and TV writers have tentatively agreed to a new three-year contract, avoiding a walkout that would have shut down and delayed many programs. A deal was struck after a haggling session with studios extended past a midnight deadline into Tuesday’s early morning hours. The deal will now go to the Writers Guild of America’s boards for approval and to members for ratification.

The standoff had the entertainment industry increasingly on edge in recent weeks as a potential strike loomed; writers and studios were initially far apart on several key financial concerns, including pay minimums, health care, and issues caused by networks ordering shorter seasons and the rising popularity of streaming services. But both sides made considerable progress toward a deal over the weekend, according to reports, and then surged Monday to close the gap before (and slightly after) the Writers Guild of America’s former contract expired at midnight on May 1.

“Did we get everything we wanted? No,” the WGA said in a statement. “Everything we deserve? Certainly not. But because we had the near-unanimous backing of you and your fellow writers, we were able to achieve a deal that will net this Guild’s members $130 million more, over the life of the contract, than the pattern we were expected to accept. That result, and that resolve, is a testament to you, your courage, and your faith in us as your representatives.”

“Nobody wants a strike” was a popular refrain in recent weeks, though writers had voted overwhelmingly in favor of authorizing a strike to help empower their leadership at the bargaining table. Scribes were not eager to potentially lose wages and put projects in jeopardy (the AMPTP estimated the previous 100-day strike of 2007-08 cost writers more than $287 million in short-term compensation, though WGA leaders disputed that number, especially considering the benefits of the deal that was eventually struck).

Studios, meanwhile, desperately wanted to avoid disruption of their product pipeline in the “Peak TV” era, which has seen the number of dramas and comedies on the air soar to more than 400 per year. Traditional outlets also felt additional pressure due to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, which have thousands of hours of On Demand content and were poised to potentially benefit from a wounding of linear networks. Broadcasters also have their upfront presentation to advertisers this month and preferred to be able to take their pitches to Madison Avenue without a strike hanging over the industry.