What Happened In The 2007 Writers Guild Of America Strike? A Comprehensive Guide

In late 2007, the entertainment industry was rocked by a major labour dispute that left television fans without new episodes of their favourite shows and caused millions of dollars in losses for studios and networks. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike, demanding better compensation for their work in the age of digital media. This strike was not only a turning point for the industry, but it also highlighted the changing landscape of media and the power dynamics between creators and executives. Here we are taking a closer look at what happened during the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike and its impact on the entertainment industry.

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In late 2007, the entertainment industry was rocked by a major labour dispute that left television fans without new episodes of their favourite shows and caused millions of dollars in losses for studios and networks. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike, demanding better compensation for their work in the age of digital media. This strike was not only a turning point for the industry, but it also highlighted the changing landscape of media and the power dynamics between creators and executives. Here we are taking a closer look at what happened during the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike and its impact on the entertainment industry.

Who are the Writers Guild of America?

The Writers Guild of America or the WGA is a combination of two American labour unions representing writers across TV, Film, Radio and Online. Both the Writers Guild of America East and the Writers Guild of America West come together under the banner of the WGA to negotiate contracts and launch strike actions. The organisation in the East is based in New York City and WGAW has headquarters in Los Angeles.

Many audiences have heard of the Writers Guild of America due to its industrial action in both 2007 and in 2023. Its 2007 strike was a momentous occasion which saw many TV shows suspended and its effect was felt outside of the entertainment industry, including by regular viewers.

When was the Writers Guild of America formed?

The WGA was fully formed by 1954 after merging together other labour unions including the Authors Guild which was originally founded in 1912 as the Authors League of America to represent book and magazine authors. A separate group split off from the ALA in 1921 and formed the Dramatists Guild of America to represent writers of stage and radio dramas. In the same year the Screenwriters Guild was formed to represent screenwriters in film. As television emerged, the SWG and a Television Writers Group within the Authors Guild began to represent TV show writers by 1948. 

By 1954 the organisations were restructured due to the complicated mix of representing different members across the entertainment industry. The Authors Guild and the Dramatists Guild would continue to represent writers in print media but the SWG closed and those working in TV, radio and film would be represented by two new headquarters on the separate coasts. This is what we know today as the Writers Guild of America East and the Writers Guild of America West.

As well as coming together for industrial action, both the Writers Guild of Americas attend the Writers Guild of America Awards which began in 1949. They also share the WGA Screenwriting Credit System which is used to determine who gets credit for work under the WGA’s jurisdiction. They both are members of the International Affiliation of Writers Guild and the WGA Script Registration Service is run by both guilds to establish the date of creation of literary property.

2007 Writers Guild of America strikes

Writers Guild Strike Signs. (Themightyquill, CC)

Many members of the public became aware of the WGA because of the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike but what actually happened and why were the writers striking?

The 2007 Writers Guild of America Strike

All 12,000 film and television screenwriters in both WGA unions went on strike between the 5th of November 2007 and the 12th of February 2008. The strike sought increased funding for writers in comparison to the profits of the largest studios. The strike was targeted at the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) which is a trade association representing 397 American Film and TV producers including CBS, MGM, NBC Universal, Lionsgate, The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures, and the Weinstein Company.

On the 12th of February 2008, writers voted on whether to lift the strike after negotiators reached a tentative agreement and 92.5% voted to end the strike. The Writers Guild of America later requested a court order asking that this agreement be both honoured and implemented.

According to NPR, the Writers Guild of America strike cost the Los Angeles economy $1.5 billion and the Milken Institute estimated losses of $2.1 billion, $20 million per day.

The Writers Guild of America strike in 2007 was the longest strike in the Guild’s history lasting 153 days and it cost the US entertainment industry $500 million, reported by the French press.

The Key Issues In The WGA 2007 Strike

Several of the key issues from both sides regarding a new contract with the WGA and the AMPTP were DVD residuals, union jurisdiction over animation and reality program writers and compensation for new media meaning content written and distributed through new emerging technologies including the Internet.

  • DVD Residuals

  • Union Jurisdiction over Animation and Reality TV

  • Compensation for New Media

The main win in the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike was surrounding emerging media and streaming. Streamers would have to hire WGA writers on shows over a certain budget. They also received a new percentage payment on the distributor's gross for digital distribution.

The Fight For Fair DVD Residuals

In 1985, the Writers Guild of America went on strike over the emergence of the home video market which was then primarily videotapes. Entertainment companies argued at the time that Home Video was an unproven market with expensive manufacturing costs. The Writers Guild accepted a formula in which a writer would receive 0.3% of the first million of reported gross and later 0.36% of each videotape sold as a residual. However as the Home Video market grew and manufacturing costs were less, many writers felt that this deal left them short changed. 

When DVD debuted in 1996 and rapidly replaced VHS, the previous VHS residual formula continued to apply. In 2004 the New York Times reported that companies made $4.8 billion in Home Video sales which engulfed the $1.78 billion of box office sales between January and March of that year.

Members of the Writers Guild of America argued that residual checks are a necessary part of a writer's income as they are heavily relied upon during periods of common unemployment. The WGA had requested a doubling of the residual rates for DVD sales meaning writers would earn a residual of zero. 6% per DVD sold however in the end there was no change to the calculation of DVD residuals.

Compensation For New Media

In terms of new media, the Writers Guild of America had no arrangement with producers regarding the use of their written content online. Up until that point, two standard distribution contracts were negotiated. The strike action based around new media was sparked by the contract between Viacom and the creators of South Park and compensation for delivery on channels such as the Internet, streaming, smart phones and on demand online distribution methods along with video on demand on cable and satellite television.

Electronic Sell-through 

Before the strike action “Electronic Sell-through” was common where a consumer purchases a copy of the program and downloads it to a local storage device. Consumers purchased movies and TV shows through the iTunes Store for example and watched them at their leisure as it had been downloaded to their own device. 


The second model was Streaming where the consumer watches a program in real time as it is transmitted to the computer but it is not saved on their device so they do not own it. This model included advertising supported television programmes which were streamed free to audiences. It was widely speculated that streaming avenues would eventually surpass DVD in the home video market and television in the broadcasting market as the primary means for distribution. 

Despite the AMPTP suggesting that new media was an unproven and untested market, the WGA harboured some resentment over their initial Home Video deal rate that they were adamant that whatever deal was made for new media it could not resemble the one created for DVD residuals.

Prolific screenwriter Craig Mazin (known for writing The Hangover II and III and later HBO TV Shows Chernobyl and The Last Of Us) claimed that new media was, “the one issue” that mattered and many others claim new media to be the central issue for the 2007 strike.

The strike action in 2007 allowed the WGA to establish the groundwork for Guild covered writing in the streaming industry before it took off with the likes of Netflix and Amazon. When these big hitters came around they had to hire Guild writers because of these rules set in 2008. For downloads, writers were granted 1.2% of the distributor's gross receipts for rentals and between 0.65% and 0.7% of gross receipts. For advertising supported streaming, writers were granted 2% of gross receipts beyond the initial 17 days.

Union Jurisdiction For Animated And Reality TV Shows

The third key issue in the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike was union jurisdiction for reality and animated programs. At the time more than 12,000 writers in the WGA membership worked on live action and script driven movies and TV programmes. Yet there was an inconsistency of whether and how the WGA’s Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) (MBA) should apply to other TV and film categories such as reality TV and animation. 

Well known shows such as Survivor and America’s Next Top Model were not covered by the Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA). Many producers of reality programming argued that there is no writer on such shows. The WGA countered that by saying that the process of creating interesting scenarios and shaping the raw material into a narrative that has character arcs, conflicts and storyline actually constitutes writing and it should fall under their jurisdiction. In the case of America’s Next Top Model in the summer of 2006, employees joined the WGAW but they were then removed from the production and it continued without them.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees

Animated films and TV programmes have also been an area of heavy contention when it comes to the Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) as most animated feature films were written under the jurisdiction of another union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees also known as the Animation Guild. Their jurisdiction in animated features had historically stemmed from the fact that Walt Disney created animation via storyboards and artists, however in the years leading up to the 2007 strike, studios began hiring screenwriters to first write script pages which would then be storyboarded later.

According to the WGA Contract 2007 Proposals, the WGA found that 100% of the animated feature films created in 2005 were written by at least one WGA member. The only animated TV series affected by the WGA strike were The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Family Guy and American Dad!.

Both the WGA and the IATSE were in ongoing disagreement as to which should represent writers of animation features.

The WGA requested contract language clarifying that reality programming falls under its jurisdiction and they further proposed introducing the credits of “Story Producer” and “Supervising Story Producer” to those writers making story contributions to a reality TV show. The WGA proposed clarifying its jurisdiction to cover all animation in TV and film but did not encroach on the jurisdiction of the IATSE. The Economist reported in 2008 that the WGA President Patric Verrone announced that the jurisdiction proposals for both reality TV and animation were formally removed from the table.


Final negotiations between the WGA and the AMPTP began on the 25th of October 2007 before the WGA’s contracts expired on the 31st of October. Talks broke down due to the issues surrounding new media royalties. The WGA temporarily withdrew its DVD proposal to try and avoid strike action but the companies still insisted on a lack of residual compensation for new media. The talks ultimately broke down as each side accused the other of walking out according to Deadline Hollywood.

2007 Writers Guild of America strikes

Striking WGA members in Century City, Los Angeles, California on Nov. 7, 2007. (Jengod, CC)

Striking Begins

On the 5th of November nearly 3000 WGAW members and additional members from SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and Teamsters picketed or refused to cross the picket lines at 14 studios in Los Angeles. Writers in the WGAE picketed locations across New York City including Rockefeller Centre. 

Picketing began outside the 20th Century Fox Studios in Los Angeles on the 9th of November and lasted for four days and drew an estimated 4,000 WGAW members and supporters. Speakers at the rally included WGA West President Patric Verrone, creator of Family Guy Seth McFarlane, Jesse Jackson and Norman Lear. Zack de la Rocha and Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine opened the rally with a two song performance. 

On the 29th November 2007, the AMPTP submitted a new proposal to the WGA reportedly offering an additional US$130 million in compensation but the WGA responded stating that it did not understand how this figure had been calculated but was pleased to see the organisation proposing figures in that range. A four day recess at the WGA‘s request began subsequently.

The WGA renewed a push on the jurisdiction in reality programming including a rally outside of FremantleMedia. Discussions broke off on the 7th of December when the AMPTP walked away from the table citing that the WGA needed to drop several proposals including the reality TV proposal. After talks resumed in the middle of December it was later announced that the animation and reality TV jurisdiction proposals had been dropped.

A media blackout was in agreement by both parties during unofficial negotiations and on the 9th of February 2008, the WG a president emailed membership announcing that the WGA and AMPTP had reached a tentative deal.


The WGA held a 48 hour vote for guild members on the 10th of February regarding the motion that would end the three-month strike. 92.5% of the membership voted to end the strike and later at 93.6% of WGA members approved the new three-year contract that would be effective until the 1st of May 2011 which would see pay increase between 3 - 3.5%.

AMPTP’s Response

In April 2008, the Writers Guild of America East filed a lawsuit against the ABC television network and Corday productions over alleged violations of the agreement. ABC and Corday continued using replacement writers hired during the strike for the soap operas Days Of Our Lives and All My Children rather than allowing the original writers of the production back to work after the strike had ended.

When the notion of a strike was first floated in the media, production companies actually accelerated the production of several TV episodes and films in order to stockpile enough material to keep the regular film releases and TV schedules going if a strike were to occur. It was reported in the media that a list of 300 film projects was created to highlight which releases were high priority.

Many Showrunners, who sometimes are seen as head writers but have a much higher level of responsibility in the direction and the production of the show itself, refused to cross the picket line during the first week of the strike. According to deadline Hollywood, many production companies sent letters claiming breach of contract and suspended many showrunners without pay.

There is also speculation that production companies were seeking out international writing services to make up for the fact that the Writers Guild of America were striking, including hiring writers from the UK. The Writers Guild of Great Britain discouraged British union members from taking part.

The AMPTP also focused on damage control and public relations and hired the team who called themselves “Masters of Disaster”, Chris Lehane and Mark Fabiani. The pair had previously worked with politicians including Bill Clinton and Al Gore. The AMPTP also hired Steve Schmidt who was the former campaign manager for Arnold Schwarzenegger when he ran for Governor of California. Fabiani and Lehane tried to create resentment and doubt regarding the WGA leadership by framing the strike as havoc and blamed the union for starting the strike in the first place. Deadline Hollywood also reported that the pair were reframing language to be more favourable to the AMPTP suggesting that the WGA were organisers of the strike itself. Several of Fabiani and Lehane’s union clients terminated their PR contracts with them due to their involvement with reframing the WGA writers strike in 2007.

Picket Lines

During the strike itself, WGA picketed daily and even created themed days including “Bring a Star To Picket With You” and “Bring Your Kids”. One of the strategies used by the WGA was to make a direct appeal to TV and film fans explaining their feelings behind the strike and why several of the shows would not be completed on time by using blogs and online videos. The WGA also encouraged members of the public to send pencils en masse to executives in the TV and film industry! According to the website ShopTillYouDrop (dot) com, members of the WGA held a ceremony performing the last rights for the former MBA and held a mock exorcism at Warner Bros!

The strike forced production to cease for all scripted television programming causing hundreds and thousands of support staff to be laid off by the studios. All scripted Hollywood shows except October Road were expected to shut down by the 19th of December 2007. During the first week of the strike, AMPTP member companies fired Writer’s Assistants and Production Assistants working on programs that had been shut down. Seth MacFarlane called this a “desperate, punitive act” in the press.

2007 Writers Guild of America strikes

Seth MacFarlane speaking at a WGAw rally 9th November 2007. (Evil Monkey CC)

Effects On The US Television Landscape

CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox had the most severe decline in prime-time ratings with NBC seeing its prime-time audience of 18 to 49–year-olds drop by 11%. Peter Chernin, an executive at Fox, claimed that the WGA strike was positive for his network as the non-WGA associated American Idol was able to do particularly well due to reduced competition across-the-board.

Several high-profile presenters and anchors on American TV pledged their support for the writers including Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien who both kept the shows on air without writers to save the jobs of the non-writing staff. The WGA had targeted Protest at Carson Daly who was accused of setting up a joke hotline as a strikebreaking effort when he returned to air. 

The Writers Guild of America strike in 2007 also affected large scale awards events including the Golden Globe Awards and the Academy Award ceremonies. The WGA announced that it would not issue waivers for these events and SAG also decided to not support the Golden Globes.

A white paper released by Nielsen Media Research the 2nd of April 2008 claimed that viewers spent more time watching alternative forms of entertainment outside of traditional broadcast television including online video sites during the course of the strike action.

For more specific information about how the 2007 Writer's Guild of America strikes effected TV shows across the USA, read: Enlarged Balls, No Scrubs and Lost Lost: Effects Of The 2007 Writers Guild of America Strike On US TV Shows

High Profile Supporters Of The Strikes

Many actors participated in the Writers Guild of America strike in 2007 in support of their writing colleagues. Some of these included Adam Sandler, Kaylee Cuoco, Alan Tudyk, Cowpen, Alex Borstein, Allison Janney, BJ Novak, Ben Stiller, Laura Dan, Lauren Graham Connor Chad Michael Murray, Christina Richie, Matthew Lillard, Megan Mullaly, Danny Glover, David Hyde Pierce, Neil Patrick Harris, Nicholas Brendon, Patricia Heaton, Eddie Izzard, Frankie Muniz, Regina King, George Tokai, Ron Howard, Roseanne Barr, Hank Azaria, Jack Black, Sarah Paulson, Jane Leeves, Jeff Goldblum, Vincent Kartheiser, Josh Radnor, and Zoe Saldana

Other actors did not strike themselves but expressed their support for the picketers including Angelina Jolie, Ben Affleck, David Letterman, Eva Longoria, Glenn Close, Joaquin Phoenix, William Shatner, and Tom Hanks.

Ellen DeGeneres was someone who stated that she supported the strike but she did cross the picket line however decided not to do a monologue on her show during the strike explaining that she did not wish to lay off 135 employees from her staff. However the WGA issued a statement condemning Ellen DeGeneres stating that she was not welcome in New York City!

Former CEO of Disney Michael Eisner claimed that the writers strike was insanity. According to Reuters, Eisner stated at a business conference that the WGA strike was, “a stupid strike”.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was the California governor at the time of the 2007 strike and according to CBC he negotiated with both sides of the dispute claiming that it had a tremendous economic impact on the state. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both publicly issued their support of the WGA.

2007 Obama Clinton WGA Strikes

Signs and Barricades 2007 Writers Guild of America Strike (SecretName101 CC)

Fan Support

A national survey conducted by Pepperdine University on the 7th of November 2007 found that 84% (more than four out of five Americans) were aware that the strikes are in progress and nearly 2/3 of the sample sided with the writers. Viewers of their favourite TV shows decided to organise support for their favourite writers most notably Joss Whedon’s Fanbase who became Fans4Writers; they walked the picket line and provided regular food drops to those on strike. 

One of the largest fan base pickets began on the 24th of January 2008 at the NBC Studios in Burbank where fans of the series Xena Warrior Princess marched in support of the WGA. Many producers and actors from the show also joined the picket line.

According to 10% of the overall TV viewing audience was lost as a result of the 1988 writer strike and this drop-off has not been reversed.

On the 19th of November 2008 the Writers Guild of America announced that they were filing arbitration against the AMPTP for not honouring the agreement that had ended the strikes but this was resolved and a new agreement took place on the 2nd of May 2011.

The 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike was a pivotal moment in the history of the entertainment industry, with lasting effects on writers, producers, and viewers alike. While the strike ultimately resulted in some gains for writers, it also exposed the deep-seated conflicts and power imbalances within the industry. Ten years later, in 2017, the Writers Guild of America narrowly avoided another strike, highlighting the ongoing challenges facing writers in Hollywood. 

As the industry continues to evolve, it remains to be seen what the future holds for the relationship between writers and producers, and how the legacy of the 2007 strike will shape the industry for years to come.

The Writers Guild of America went on strike again in 2023.

2007 Writers Guild Of America Strike - What Happened In The 2007 Writers Guild Of America Strike? A Comprehensive Guide

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