Writers strike negotiations hung up on language over AI, sources say

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SAG-AFTRA actors and Writers Guild of America (WGA) writers walk the picket line during their ongoing strike outside Netflix offices in Los Angeles, California, September 22, 2023.

Mario Anzuoni | Reuters

Hollywood writers and producers have made “major progress” in negotiations to end the strike that has gone on for 145 days, but a major sticking point has been language over the use of artificial intelligence, two sources familiar with the negotiations said Saturday.

Studio executives were not present for the talks Saturday, which lasted eight hours, the sources said, and negotiations ended without a deal.

The two sides — the Writers Guild of America and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers — said in a joint statement that bargaining would resume Sunday.

The AMPTP is a trade group that bargains for the major studios and streaming services. (The group represents NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.)

The back-to-back weekend meetings may be a sign of hope amid a strike that ended some television programs before their seasons came to a conclusion and postponed the annual fall season of debuts and returns.

Writers have complained that they have been shorted when it comes to their share of streaming revenue. They also want increased royalties, or residual payments, and protection against the possibility studios could use artificial intelligence to handle some writing duties and to cut them out of jobs.

The sides went to the table Wednesday for discussions that took a powerful turn on Thursday when studio heads joined marathon talks that lasted more than 10 hours, a source familiar with the discussions said afterward.

Disney’s Bob Iger, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav and Comcast’s NBCUniversal Studio Group Chairman Donna Langley were present, that source said.

At that time, the source said there was a sense the two sides were “inching closer” to a deal.

Actors represented by SAG-AFTRA joined the picket line in July in a separate dispute that is ongoing.