“These companies don’t understand what is coming down the pike,” he said. “And what’s coming down the pike is an entire generation of show creators who might be super talented, who might have a lot to say about the world, but who functionally do not know how to do the job that they are going to be asked to do.”
Studio executives, however, have said privately that they have their own share of problems, and this is not the best time to be giving significant raises.
For several years, Wall Street rewarded media companies for investing in their streaming services at any cost in order to grow their subscriber pool. But investors soured on that philosophy last year, prompting studio executives to find a way to turn their money-losing streaming services into profit engines.
The fallout has been brutal. Disney is in the process of laying off 7,000 employees. Warner Bros. Discovery laid off thousands and shelved titles last year as it tries to pay down a debt load of around $50 billion. Other media companies have adopted similar cost-saving measures.
With that said, executives have also contended that they can weather a strike. Last month, David Zaslav, the chief executive of Warner Bros. Discovery, said, “We’ve got ourselves ready, we’ve had a lot of content that’s been produced.” Two weeks ago, Ted Sarandos, the co-chief executive of Netflix, suggested the streaming service would be better protected than his competitors because of how many unscripted and foreign series it has in production. “We could probably serve our members better than most,” he said.
Still, he conceded the consequences from a strike would be significant.
“The last time there was a strike, it was devastating to creators,” Mr. Sarandos said. “It was really hard in the industry. It was painful for local economies that support production and it was very, very, very bad for fans.”
Screenwriters have walked out six times over the decades. Historically, they have had the stomach for a prolonged strike. In addition to the 100-day walkout in 2007, the writers also walked picket lines for 153 days in 1988. Writers have also shown signs of remarkable unity. In mid-April, 98 percent of more than 9,000 union-represented writers authorized a strike.