WGA & AMPTP Talks “Encouraging” Today; More Negotiations Set For Tomorrow

EXCLUSIVE, updated with WGA/AMPTP statement: The Writers Guild and studios and streamers are set to meet again Thursday for further talks on a new contract for scribes.

After a long, CEO-attended session today that one insider described as “very encouraging,” the WGA and the AMPTP will return to the latter’s Sherman Oaks offices on September 21, we’re told.

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With Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Disney’s Bob Iger, Universal’s Donna Langley and Warner Bros Discovery’s David Zaslav in the room (as Deadline reported earlier today) joining AMPTP president  Carol Lombardini and WGA chief negotiator Ellen Stutzman and others, the sit-down saw “incredible progress,” a source close to events says.

“This is what happens when principals get serious,” another well-positioned source noted. “Things start moving.”

Unsurprisingly, neither the WGA nor the AMPTP responded to request for comment on Wednesday’s bargaining or future talks. If either side does have a statement, this post will be updated. (Update, 5:01 PM) – “The WGA and AMPTP met for bargaining today and will meet again tomorrow,” the parties said in a joint statement this afternoon ). No details yet if Sarandos, Iger, Langley and Zaslav will be a part of tomorrow’s negotiations – but, based on how well today went, we wouldn’t bet against their presence, in-person or virtually.

The CEO Gang of Four in attendance or not, this current state of affairs is a far cry from where things were just a week ago.

As of last week, the AMPTP was insisting that the WGA hadn’t formally respond to its August 11 proposal, which the studios and streamers made public on August 22. The WGA has long said that it did respond to the August 11 proposal on August 15 and it was up to the AMPTP to make the next move.

Last week’s news of a meeting between the two parties today provided a bright spot in what appeared to be a stalemate heading into the Labor Day holiday. Earlier this week, the CEO Gang of Four have had at least one to two virtual meetings to prep for today’s talks. 

While the scribes and the studios and streamers wrangle over a potential new deal and thorny issues of AI, residuals, writers’ rooms and data transparency, there are no plans for talks between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP. Though the AMPTP could conduct dual negotiations, that is not on the agenda at present.

Out of that, the lack of actors’ unable to promote movies has taken its toll on the fall box office: With the Zendaya movie Challengers moving off last weekend, overall ticket sales were at their second lowest for 2023 at just over $62M and the Kenneth Branagh movie A Haunting in Venice only grossing $14.2M. 

The continued writers’ strike has also put a number of talks shows yearning to return in check.

Specifically Drew Barrymore and Bill Maher pulled delayed their plans to restart production after receiving ire on social from guild members. In the case of the latter, the Real Time host insisted that his flip on bringing back his HBO show was based in no small part the news late last week of the Guild and studios and steamers setting talks.

Still, as the Guild and the AMPTP sat down in the latter’s Sherman Oaks’ offices Wednesday, WGA pickets focused on the competition show Dancing With the Stars today. The WGA signatory show, which features stars Mira Sorvino, Matt Walsh, Alyson Hannigan and Jamie Lynn Spears. While the reality competition series isn’t under the SAG-AFTRA TV and film contract, scribes are having obvious problems with a signatory show going back into production. During the 2007-08 strike, DWTS continued to shoot, re-hiring its writer after the strikes. The show employs one writer to provide banter for the hosts in what is a reported 500 person staff.  

The WGA have been out on the picket line for 142 days and SAG-AFTRA have been on strike for 69 days, so far.

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