May 1, 2017 / 7:37 PM / 2 years ago

Hollywood writers talks resume as strike deadline looms

(Reuters) - Hollywood writers and representatives of movie and television conglomerates on Monday resumed contract talks aimed at staving off a strike as early as Tuesday that could black out TV talk shows and soap operas.

FILE PHOTO: A view shows the "iconic "Hollywood" sign overlooking Southern California's film-and-television hub in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, California, U.S. January 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian

The 9,000-member Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) spent much of the weekend in negotiations ahead of a contract expiration deadline at midnight PT (3 a.m. Tuesday ET), Hollywood trade outlets reported.

Variety, citing unnamed sources, said late on Monday that “little progress” had been made in contract negotiations between the WGA and studios.

The Hollywood Reporter said an agreement between the parties “remains elusive” and it was not clear whether the midnight deadline would “bring a deal, a strike or even an extension of talks.”

A WGA representative declined to comment to Reuters about where negotiations stood on Monday.

If there is no agreement, the WGA is prepared to call for a stoppage and for picketing of the big TV and movie studios as early as Tuesday morning.

WGA members took part in Monday’s May Day march in downtown Los Angeles, held in support of workers rights and union solidarity.

The two sides have imposed a media blackout on the talks, which are centered on the revolution in the television industry that has seen the arrival of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, and a decline from around 22 episodes to 8-1O episodes seasons of scripted comedy or drama.

The WGA 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 are also at issue, along with funding for the WGA’s health plan.

The AMPTP represents entertainment giants Comcast Corp, Walt Disney Co, CBS Corp, Viacom Inc, Time Warner Inc and Twenty-First Century Fox Inc <FOXA.O., which control TV and movie production in the United States.

If a strike is called, audiences would first see the impact on late night talk shows, which use teams of writers to pen topical jokes. Daytime soap operas would be next affected, but most TV network comedy and drama shows due for broadcast in the next 2-3 months have already been written and filmed, network executives have said.

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 Jill Serjeant; Additional reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Dan Grebler & Simon Cameron-Moore

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