Yep, It’s Slow: How A Potential Strike & Industry Pivoting Has Hollywood At A Standstill

No, it’s not just you.

Everyone is feeling like the entertainment industry has been stalling out as the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers attempt to hammer out a new film and TV contract before May 1, when the current one expires.

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With widespread belief that a strike is all but certain, any new business is being tabled until the networks and streamers have a better idea of what is going to happen in the coming weeks. That has meant way fewer pitches, since the chance of a sale is slim. They “are not taking any risks and are feeling paralyzed,” as one seller put it of buyers.

“No one is buying. This is the worst marketplace that I have ever experienced,” a veteran studio executive lamented.

“Some places are still hearing pitches, but at this point the expectation going into the room is that they’re probably going to say no unless for some reason it checks off every single box,” adds one high-powered agent.

The pitches that are most appealing — at least for now — are based on IP that practically scream overnight success.

“It’s definitely true that if a company is incentivized to make something because it’s a franchise IP or with an overall deal, those are the things that are moving forward,” the agent continued. “It was not the case before there was a pending strike, but it’s even more difficult now to sell original ideas …. not because the buyers aren’t going to buy them, but because they don’t really know what it means to make something that they’re not already financially incentivized to make. And I don’t think that’s going to change between now or after a strike, if there is one.”

For those projects that do find a buyer, dealmaking has been incredibly slow. Lately, it’s taken months for buyers to negotiate and sign agreements, sources said. And with studios being very selective about what they are taking out because of the unreceptive marketplace, a lot of development is simply being done in-house.

Production also has slowed down in anticipation of a possible work stoppage. The threat of the strike has prompted some projects to shift their start dates to the fall, which has had a trickle-down effect on the rest of the industry.

Deadline has spoken to a number of actors who have told us that auditions have decreased significantly. And a crafts person who just wrapped a major Hollywood production tells us that he doesn’t expect to get another gig for months since the number of films and series that were supposed to go into production now are drying up.

So is a potential strike really to blame for the dramatic industry slowdown? Not necessarily, insists one industry insider, who believes the underlying reasons run deeper.

“A potential strike forces everyone to go on pause at the same time,” said the insider of the major platforms. “But they all needed to reframe and pivot as they have so much that is not working.”

The industry-wide shift from streaming growth at any cost to trying to remain profitable during an economic downturn has contributed to the recent decline in development, along with widespread cost-cutting and layoffs that have gripped the entertainment companies over the past year.

“I think everybody feels that the media companies, rightly or wrongly, are okay with a strike because it will allow them to roll some costs and maybe kill some deals,” continued the agent. “That’s not based on anything other than our gut instinct.”

WGA members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. The vote, which was approved by nearly 98% of the eligible voting members, authorizes the WGA West Board and the WGA East Council to call a strike if a fair deal isn’t reached by May 1. Many of the sticking points involve the level of minimum compensation, mini-room, and pay for features that are released theatrically or on streaming.

“I think everybody is acting as if a strike is going to happen. We understand that all of the negotiating that has happened up to this point is a bit perfunctory,” said the agent. “As is always the case, it’s going to make or break over this week and next.”

Peter White contributed to this report.

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