…and may extend until fall – or ever later as the the Unions-Hollywood and DirecTV-Nexstar show no sign of ending soon
Despite the WGA being on strike since May 1 and Nexstar stations vanishing off DirecTV since July 2nd, the disputes are only getting uglier and may require government intervention if there is any hope of these being resolved. And now each dispute could last well into the fall and perhaps even into next year.
The WGA strike against the Hollywood studios has now, as of this writing, reached its 116th day, passing the 1973 work stoppage and threatens to eclipse the 1960 (148 days)WGN- and the 1988 walkouts (153 days) as both sides are now trading accusations and even one claiming the other broke federal law. A meeting to discuss proposals between WGA and the AMPTP went Titanic Monday, with the WGA accusing the CEOs of top Hollywood studios – such as Disney’s Bob Iger – of “lecturing” them in the meeting, and as you can imagine, everything fell apart quickly.
The failed meeting isn’t really a surprise given it involved Iger. Back when there were the threats of dual strikes in 2001, Iger was quoted in Broadcasting & Cable threatening TV writers, telling them to sign a new contract or their shows would be replaced by “non-Guild” programming such as game shows (like the popular-at-the-time Millionaire) and reality shows. The comments drew drew fire from the guild, including Law & Order creator Dick Wolf (cooler heads did prevail and a last-minute deals were struck with each union.)
“This wasn’t a meeting to make a deal, this was a meeting to get us to cave, which is why, not 20 minutes after we left the meeting, the AMPTP released its summary of their proposals”, said the WGA in a statement. “This was the companies’ plan from the beginning — not to bargain, but to jam us. It is their only strategy — to bet that we will turn on each other.” The issues reportedly discussed were artificial intelligence, salaries, and data transparency. The AMPTP proposals were reportedly rejected by the WGA.
But that isn’t all – the AMPTP released the details of the meeting – which many WGA members thought would be in confidence – to the press. As one WGA member on social media pointed out, doing so may have violated federal law.
Saying the meeting didn’t go well is quite the understatement as of this writing, no new talks are scheduled and it might be awhile if any more take place as trust between the two sides have dissolved even further. And keep in mind – SAG-AFTRA is also on strike against AMPTP and the organization hasn’t even gotten around to talking to them.
Meanwhile, the Nexstar-DirecTV impasse – like the relationships between the unions and Hollywood – is just as in bad shape, if not worse.
Recent reports show there hasn’t been any progress in the stalemate, especially with college football season beginning this weekend (“week zero”) and NFL football starting Sept. 7 as both sides are still far apart and still trading accusations in the press. The DirecTV blackout is starting to take a toll of the company’s finances as Nexstar has carriage renewals coming up for forty percent of its subscriber base coming up in the fourth quarter of 2023 (Nexstar nearly avoided a blackout with Comcast back in December, the nation’s largest cable and broadband provider.)
Adding to this is DirecTV’s complaint to the FCC about its relationship with White Knight and Mission, both also absent from DirecTV but for much longer. DirecTV and other satellite and cable companies claim Nexstar is getting around the ownership rules by operating stations owned by the two to get around the 39 percent ownership cap. Mission owns WPIX New York and WTVO in Rockford, both run by Nexstar.
Currently, the FCC is still at four members but hearings are currently being held to nominate a fifth member (Anna Gomez) soon as the Biden administration recently withdrew an earlier nominee as she was perceived as “too activist”. But it would be a while – perhaps not until 2024 – a major election year – until the FCC even gets around to dealing with the Nexstar/Mission/White Knight issue.
On a related note, Nexstar’s WGN-TV put up a new red flag banner Wednesday night (see below.) A click on the banner however, led to a message stating “Page not found” (we’ll have more information on WGN’s football news as it becomes available.) But what I just described sums up the absolute absurdity of this entire “impasse summer” and now “impasse autumn” with “impasse winter” just around the corner as the CEOs behind these big media conglomerates – and that includes White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf – basically ceased using their brains for pretty much anything.