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Industry Survey: Striking Writers Winning PR Battle Versus Studios

Entertainment-industry professionals are far more likely to approve of how the WGA has handled the strike — and disapprove of the studios’ response — according to an exclusive new survey from Variety Intelligence Platform in conjunction with insights firm YouGov.

Most entertainment-industry professionals (57%) approve of the Writers Guild of America’s handling, versus just 9% who approve of the way studios have, per an online poll conducted May 10-11 among 540 U.S. adults working in show business.

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These latest results are an update to our previous survey fielded in March, when the strike was still weeks away from starting on May 1. Both surveys follow the VIP+ deep-dive special report “Time to Strike?” on the negotiations that led up to the walkout.

Greater approval for the WGA could stem in part from the perception that studios wanted a strike because it would potentially help them to cut costs, which 43% of respondents believe is either somewhat or very likely.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) has balked at honing in on several of the topline issues the WGA has sought to negotiate, notably instating writing room staff minimums, increasing residuals payouts and restricting certain uses of artificial intelligence (AI).

What Writers and Studios Must Iron Out to Settle on AI 

Despite the potential magnitude of technological change and its impact on creative labor, AI still isn’t viewed as one of the most serious issues in the strike.

While one-third of entertainment pros believe AI is a major issue, nearly half (48%) feel it’s only a minor one or even a non-issue.

Still, the role of AI is likely to be among the most complex for the two sides to resolve because it clearly means setting a course for how to treat possible future scenarios if and when AI is used in scriptwriting.

Now two weeks into the walkouts, more entertainment pros (39%) believe writers maintain greater bargaining leverage in the strike, as opposed to the studios (22%), while another 21% feel the sides have equal clout. That perception has remained largely unchanged since this question was posed to a similar respondent base in March.

Some of that sentiment could be explained by the reality that the streaming era has meant studios need to energize unprofitable streaming services with a robust, ever-replenishing supply of original content, with some studios likely more vulnerable to production shutdowns than others.

That leverage could translate to success. Even if some issues still seem at an impasse, with the AMPTP conceding little on writing room minimums and AI, entertainment pros are still far more confident that writers will win ground in negotiations.

Which TV and Streaming Companies Are Most Vulnerable in a Strike?

Two-thirds (67%) of those polled believe it’s at least somewhat likely that writers will achieve their goals by striking.

It remains to be seen how long the walkouts drag on. Over a third expect the strike to last no more than three months, and another third weren’t sure. The 2007-08 strike lasted just over three months, at 100 days.

This time around, the issues on the negotiating table are complex and include emerging ones, like AI, and ones only waiting to surface amid the rise of mini rooms. Depending on the receptivity on either side, this strike is likely to take more time to meaningfully resolve.

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