A group of top CEOs attended Wednesday’s talks between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, confirming a sense of urgency around the city to resolve the historic, ongoing writers’ strike.
Disney CEO Bob Iger, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos and NBCUniversal Studio Group president and chief content officer Donna Langley attended the meeting, which began at 10 a.m. PT. The Hollywood Reporter has learned The AMPTP, the industrial bargaining representative, rarely includes CEOs directly in bargaining sessions, which are usually led by labor relations representatives and senior AMPTP staff on the studio and streamer side; But an industry-wide crisis resulting from ongoing writers’ and actors’ strikes has forced company leaders to engage in direct negotiations.
“CEOs have cleared their calendars and want to sit down and have a real conversation,” a studio source with knowledge of the talks said Wednesday. This person, he said, submitted a list of issues based on WGA importance to the studio side before the meeting. “It’s been a long time coming; Everyone feels pain. We can go there and nail things down,” the source said.
THR WGA and AMPTP have been approached for comment.
A studio source said company leaders were escalating talks ahead of Wednesday’s bargaining session. “They feel that the smaller the group, the more meaningful it is. They want to come in a room and figure everything out,” the person said.
After weeks with a lack of official talks, the AMPTP announced on September 14 that the parties would finally return to schedule next week. In its own message to members, the Writers Guild of America said, “You may not hear from us in the coming days as we negotiate, but know that our focus is on getting writers a fair deal as soon as possible.”
One veteran showrunner noted the message of the union, “I took the language of the guild in the email. [to members] They expect genuine negotiations. Don’t talk for a while. They did not say when they last spoke to AMPTP. They at least expect/expect something real.
2023 is not the first time company leaders have dealt directly with the WGA amid a labor dispute. On August 21, WGA leaders met with Iger, Langley, Zaslav, Sarandos and AMPTP president Carole Lombardini at a meeting headed south. After the meeting, the AMPTP released its August 11 offer to the union, saying the organization “is deeply committed to ending the strike and hopes the WGA will work toward the same resolution.” In its own communication about the meeting, the union said that in their meeting with top executives, “we were lectured about how great their one and only counteroffer is” and dismissed the latest offer’s “limitations and loopholes and flaws.”
Studio chiefs have allowed their schedules in preparation for Wednesday’s discussion to go late. If the meeting goes well, the caucus could extend into the night, according to multiple sources. If it rises early, it may be a sign of little progress.
Kim Masters contributed to the report.