WGA AMPTP Contract Explained: Here's What the Writers Won

Members of WGA walk with pickets on strike outside the Culver Studio, Tuesday May 2, 2023 in Culver City, California. (Ringo Chiu / Shutterstock)

Members of WGA walk with pickets on strike outside the Culver Studio, Tuesday May 2, 2023 in Culver City, California. (Ringo Chiu / Shutterstock)

In a landmark development, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) have inked a new three-year contract, marking the end of a 140-day strike that had brought the entertainment industry to a standstill. This agreement, unveiled on September 26, 2023, heralds a new era of enhanced compensation, better working conditions, and significant protections against the encroachment of artificial intelligence in the creative process.

The financial contours of the deal are nothing short of a victory for the writers. The total value of the contract is pegged at a whopping $233 million, a substantial leap from the initial $86 million offer by the AMPTP. This financial augmentation reflects a broader recognition of the indispensable role writers play in the burgeoning entertainment landscape, especially in the face of the streaming revolution that has reshaped viewing habits globally.

One of the cornerstone achievements of this agreement is the structured wage increment for writers, aligned with the rates previously agreed upon by the studios and the Directors Guild of America. The writers are set to enjoy a 5% wage increase in the first year, followed by a 4% increase in the second, and a 3.5% increase in the third year. This structured wage increment is a significant stride towards ensuring that the writers' earnings are commensurate with the pivotal role they play in content creation.

In an industry increasingly flirting with artificial intelligence, the new contract has laid down robust protections for writers. A key provision in the agreement stipulates that studios cannot mandate writers to use AI tools in their creative process. Moreover, if any AI-generated material is provided to writers, the studios are required to disclose it. This is a monumental step in preserving the human essence of storytelling, ensuring that the creative reins remain firmly in the hands of the writers.

Furthermore, the WGA has secured the rights regarding the use of its members' work in data sets meant to train AI programs. The guild reserves the right to assert that such exploitation of writers’ material is prohibited, thereby safeguarding the intellectual property rights of the writers in the digital age.

The contract also addresses the evolving dynamics of streaming compensation, introducing a bonus structure for streaming titles that perform exceptionally well. Starting in 2024, streaming titles with budgets exceeding $30 million and viewed by 20% or more of the service’s domestic subscribers in the first 90 days of release will trigger a bonus equal to 50% of the fixed domestic and foreign residual. This is a forward-thinking provision that aligns writers' compensation with the success of their work on streaming platforms.

Moreover, for feature-length streaming projects with a budget at or above $30 million, the minimal initial compensation for a story or teleplay has been set at $100,000, marking an 18% increase from the current rate. This adjustment reflects a more realistic valuation of writers' contributions to high-budget streaming projects.

In a bid to ensure a conducive working environment, the contract mandates studios to hire a minimum number of writers and writer-producers for both development and production phases. This provision ensures that there is adequate staffing to meet the creative demands of projects, thereby fostering a more collaborative and productive working environment.

The agreement also facilitates a more transparent relationship between writers and streaming services regarding viewership data. The WGA will now receive confidential viewership data on streaming shows based on hours viewed, although only aggregate data can be publicly shared. This provision empowers writers with better insights into the performance of their work, fostering a more informed dialogue between writers and studios.

In conclusion, the new WGA-AMPTP contract is a monumental step towards creating a more equitable and rewarding working environment for writers. As the entertainment industry continues to evolve in the face of technological advancements and changing viewer preferences, this agreement sets a robust precedent for ensuring that the rights and contributions of writers are duly recognized and rewarded.

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