NEW YORK (CBSMiami) – Your favorite television show may be going on an unplanned hiatus in the near future.
On Monday night, members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike for the first time in ten years. They have less than a week to work out a new contract with producers.
From late night talk shows, situation comedies and scripted dramas, writers could soon put their pens down and put those shows in jeopardy.
The WGA said of their more than 6,300 members, 96-percent voted to authorize a march on the picket line if a deal isn’t reached with the producer’s union before their current contract expires on May 1st.
Writer and guild member Patti Carr, who has worked on shows like Reign and Private Practice, said changes in the TV landscape have hurt the bottom line for writers because they are paid per episode.
A traditional broadcast series runs 22 to 24 episode, but now shows on cable or streaming services like Netflix and Amazon are running, on average, 12 to 13 episodes. These shows are often shot to look more like a movie, meaning they take longer in production, which keeps the writers tied up for the same amount of time while making less money.
“The average income for writers has gone down 23 percent,” said Carr.
The writers are asking for higher script fees, bigger residuals from streaming media and larger contributions to their health care plan. Producers say they are under pressure to keep costs down as viewing habits change and more customers cut their cable cord.
When unionized writers went on strike ten years ago, it lasted more than three months and cost the industry about two billion dollars.
In a statement released Monday night, the Producer’s Alliance said they remain committed to reaching a deal and warned that the “2007 writers strike hurt everyone. Writers lost more than $287 million in compensation that was never recovered.”
“Hopefully, it doesn’t come to that. It will be scary if that’s what we have to do,” said Carr.
Right now, both sides say a strike is still avoidable.