FILE PHOTO – A picket sign from the Writers Guild of America is seen as members protest in Burbank, California January 2, 2008. REUTERS/Phil McCarten/File Photo
Hollywood writers said they reached a tentative deal with representatives of movie and television studios on a new contract early on Tuesday, averting a strike that could have blacked out talk shows and soap operas.
The sides agreed provisions to make up for shorter TV seasons – an issue since the advent of streaming services – and a 15-percent increase in pay television residuals, according to a memo to writers on the Writers Guild of America website.
Guild members would together earn $130 million more over the lifespan of the new deal, negotiators said in the memo, without specifying the time period.
"That result, and that resolve, is a testament to you, your courage, and your faith in us as your representatives," they wrote. Members still need to agree to the settlement.
The 9,000-member Guild had said it was prepared to call for a stoppage and for picketing of the big TV and movie studios as early as Tuesday if no deal was reached by midnight on Monday.
The focus of the talks has been the revolution in the television industry since the arrival of streaming services including Netflix and Amazon, and a resulting sharp decline in the typical number of episodes in a season of scripted comedy or drama, to around 10 from 22.
The Guild says its members, who are paid per episode, have suffered an average 23-percent drop in earnings in the past three years.
Royalties for shows sold on DVDs, streaming platforms and cable TV were also at issue, along with funding for the Guild's health plan.
The Guild was negotiating with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents entertainment giants Comcast Corp, Walt Disney Co, CBS Corp, Viacom Inc, Time Warner Inc and Twenty-First Century Fox Inc.
If a strike had been called, audiences would have seen the first impact on late-night talk shows, which use teams of writers to pen topical jokes.
The last WGA strike in 2007/8 went on for 100 days. TV networks broadcast re-runs and more reality shows, while the cost to the California economy was estimated at $2.1 billion, according to the Milken Institute.
(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Andrew Heavens)