Studios to Suspend Some First-Look and Overall Deals Amid Writers Strike

Amazon, HBO, Warner Bros. TV, NBCUniversal, Disney, CBS Studios and other major struck studios will be suspending some first-look and overall deals amid the ongoing writers strike.

Sources close to the situation tell Variety that Amazon will be sending letters out Monday notifying those affected. The studio does have some carveouts for creatives who are rendering producing services but non-writing.

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HBO is said to be making calls to alert the individuals, but formal letters have not been sent yet. “On the day that HBO called to suspend my deal after 25 years of writing television for them, I was doing the write thing,” wrote “The Wire” creator David Simon on Twitter, posting a video from the picket line.

Disney has sent a letter to anyone with an overall deal who currently isn’t working to suspend overall deals (which means certain non-writing producers who continue to work have not seen their deals paused). Netflix and Paramount are expected to send letters this week as well.

Most studios have avoided broaching the word “termination,” although one is said to have raised the option in their letter in order to maintain transparency. There’s also a variation by studio in terms of whether all overall deals have been suspended, or if it’s a case-by-case with producers depending on whether they’re still working. Some studios have chosen not to suspend all term deals — choosing not to suspend deals with showrunners whom they expect to continue non-writing producer duties. However, most showrunners who have received that letter have publicly argued that there are no “non-writing producer duties.”

On May 2, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) called for a strike after failing to ink a new deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Picketing quickly ensued in New York City, Los Angeles and Atlanta and several productions were shut down due to the strike.

While the news of overall deals being suspended is somewhat jarring, it is by no means unexpected. According to multiple agency sources who spoke with Variety, they and their clients have been prepared for exactly this scenario since the strike talk became more serious. It is clearly laid out in the contracts for such deals that taking part in a “labor action” like a strike allows the studio to suspend a deal and stop payments.

One thing the agents emphasized is that no one has heard any talk of outright terminating deals at this point, however. Such a move would be much more drastic and likely would only occur if the strike drags on for an extended period of time. It has been speculated that such a move could allow the studios to cut off expensive deals with big name producers who are not necessarily producing much content, but again, that is a situation that might occur weeks or months down the road.

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