EXCLUSIVE: For some writer-producers, the enthusiasm over going back to work this week was dampened by the news that their overall deals, suspended during the WGA strike, are being reinstated but not extended. Nowhere has this been more prevalent than Universal Studio Group, which includes Universal Television and UCP.
The company has reinstated all of its writing and non-writing producers but did not extend the term on any of the deals, I have learned. This does not impact mega UTV/UCP producers such as Dick Wolf and Seth MacFarlane, whose deals were never suspended as they worked on non-struck shows throughout the strike, and barely impacts non-writing producers like NBCU staple Lorne Michaels whose pacts were suspended for just a couple of weeks.
It is the writers who are affected as their deals were suspended for the entire five-month duration of the WGA work stoppage. That translates into hundreds of thousands and, in some cases, millions of dollars of earnings that they won’t get without an extension, and I hear many of them are not happy.
Term deals don’t automatically extend after a strike-related suspension. The studios have the option to do that at their discretion in a so-called “suspend & extend” move where the length of the suspension is added at the end of the deal’s term.
That is what most other studios and streamers have been doing this week, making extension decisions on a case-by-case basis.
According to sources, USG opted for a uniform policy across the portfolio, adhering to all deals’ original terms while focusing on renewing those the studios want to remain in business with. I hear that started about six months before the WGA strike when Universal TV and UCP initiated renewal conversations with showrunners whose pacts expire in 2023. Some deals were completed before the May 2 start of the writers strike; the rest of the negotiations are being picked up now, in the wake of the strike coming to an end on Wednesday.
For overall agreements ending in 2024 and 2025, the studios are expected to reengage closer to their expiration date with those who will be offered renewals. A rep for USG declined comment.
While USG is the only studio to opt for a blanket “no extension” policy — which does save a significant amount of money for parent NBCUniversal as there will be no five-month payments under current deals’ terms — elements of the strategy are being used by other studios.
As Deadline reported earlier this week, Warner Bros. TV, which is believed to have been the first studio to send out reinstatement letters to its writing and non-writing producers Wednesday, extended a number of showrunners, including its biggest names, while also opting not to extend a significant portion of its suspended deals — as many as half, I hear. According to sources, mostly impacted are pacts ending in 2025 and beyond, with the studio, like USG, taking a wait-and-see approach to evaluate how the talent performs before making a decision. I hear in the case of WBTV, exercising an extension option later on for some of the deals is a possibility.
Additionally, I hear most of Sony’s reinstatement letters did not contain an extension/no extension clause, with the studio saying that those will be subject of a future conversation.
Streamers, which have mostly extended their overalls (Amazon Studios just started sending the bulk of their notifications so there is not enough information on them). Other traditional studios also have handed a slew of extensions this week but they have also done some picking and choosing.
Across the board, studios and streamers have not granted extensions to deals they were not planning to renew, which expired during the strike or are expiring soon.
Also, it’s worth noting that there were no known overall or first-look deal terminations during the recent strike, which was not the case during the 2007-08 WGA work stoppage.