Could Hollywood writers' strike delay final season of Game of Thrones?
If an agreement isn't reached between the warring Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers before May 1, production on all scripted US television and late-night programming will be immediately halted, potentially jeopardising many of your favourite shows, including Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.
Buried as we are under a cloud of 'Peak TV', there are more shows and more original content outlets than ever before, but old rules, written before the boom in streaming services, have resulted in show writers losing out on wages. Along with shorter episode orders (everything from eight to 13 episodes, in comparison to the 22-episode standard back when many of the rules were first defined), there's now a larger window between US TV seasons, sometimes up to a year, meaning show writers have to stretch their paychecks far longer than they used to.
Additionally, contracts stipulate that series staff writers are not allowed to work on other TV productions, even when their primary TV job is on hiatus, resulting in another loss of potential income. Writers are also eager for better health care insurance.
This week saw the Writers Guild granted permission to strike unless the producers' alliance agree to negotiate, meaning shows currently in production, like The Walking Dead, American Horror Story and Star Trek: Discovery, or shows due to start up production shortly, like Game of Thrones, could be indefinitely delayed until an agreement is reached.
Game of Thrones's upcoming seventh season, due to debut in July, has already finished production, but a strike could potentially disrupt the scriptwriting of its eighth and final season, which is due to commence soon ahead of filming in September.
However, it's expected that the strike will not in fact go ahead, primarily because it's a far bigger risk for Hollywood than it was back in 2007, when the Writers' Guild were last granted permission to strike. The 2007 strike caused the entertainment industry to lose an estimated $1.5 billion and resulted in a severe cut to the amount of episodes for shows airing during the 2007-2008 US TV season.
Back then, however, the producers' alliance had more leverage: audiences were still relatively fine with watching repeats, while reality series (which require no writers) could quite easily plug the hole vacated by scripted television.
Today, where audiences have far more options when it comes to television viewing, and the popularity of reality TV has slightly died off, US TV bosses have far more to lose.