A ‘perfect storm’: Former Hollywood CEO warns of ‘absolute collapse’ if strike extends into September

Former Paramount and 20th Century Fox CEO Barry Diller says the entire Hollywood industry could face an “absolute collapse” if the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents actors, don’t reach a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) by the start of September.

“This kind of perfect storm, it’s okay if it gets settled in the next month, but I’ll posit what happens if it doesn’t,” Diller said during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“What will happen is, if in fact, it doesn’t get settled until Christmas or so, then next year, there’s not going to be many programs for anybody to watch,” he explained. “So, you’re gonna see subscriptions get pulled, which is going to reduce the revenue of all these movie companies, television companies, the result of which is that there will be no programs. And at just the time, strike is settled, that you want to get back up, there won’t be enough money.”

(Video: YouTube)

As BizPac Review reported, last week, SAG-AFTRA president, actress Fran Drescher wrote in a letter to its members, “After more than four weeks of negotiations, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) — the entity that represents major studios and streamers, including Amazon, Apple, Disney, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, Sony, and Warner Bros Discovery — remains unwilling to offer a fair deal on the key issues that you told us are important to you.”

After an unprecedented unanimous vote, Drescher, in a passionate speech, called the AMPTP’s negotiations “insulting” and announced that SAG-AFTRA would be joining the WGA, which has been striking since early May, on the picket lines.

“They plead poverty, that they’re losing money left and right, when giving hundreds of millions of dollars to their CEOs,” Drescher said. “It is disgusting — shame on them.”

And the actors have turned out in droves, from coast to coast.

Diller noted that there is “no trust between the parties” but stressed that should the strike continue past September 1, there will be dire consequences.

“The truth is, this is a huge business both domestically and for world export,” he said. “It sounds like I’m crying to the skies. But these conditions will potentially produce an absolute collapse of an entire industry.”

At the center of the unions’ concerns are residuals from streaming services and the use of AI to essentially copy and paste the images of background actors into scenes for which they receive no credit or pay — all while the studio executives receive millions of dollars in salaries.

But, as Diller pointed out, many of the A-list actors who are currently marching on picket lines make more than the studio heads.

“You have the actors union, saying, ‘How dare these 10 people who run these companies earn all this money and won’t pay us?’ While if you look at it on the other side, the top ten actors get paid more than the top ten executives,” he said. “I’m not saying either is right. Actually, everybody’s probably overpaid at the top end.”

“The one idea I had is to say, as a good faith measure, both the executives and the most paid actors should take a 25% pay cut, to try and narrow the difference between those who get highly paid and those that don’t,” Diller added.

He dismissed the concerns over artificial intelligence, saying the fear surrounding AI has been “overhyped to death.”

“In this case, I think [in] the one to three-year period, not much is going to happen,” Diller said. “But post that, of course, there are all these issues.”

“Now, by the way, these issues are not, I believe, relative to some of the worries about replacement,” he continued. “I do not think [they are] going to replace A.I. generated actors. I don’t think you’re going to replace writers. Yes, you can adjust all this stuff and spit out something that sounds like Shakespeare, but guess what, it is not original Shakespeare. And writers will get assisted, not replaced. Most of these actual performing crafts, I don’t think they’re in danger of artificial intelligence.”


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