What Does the Hollywood Writers Strike Mean for Streaming?

With the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers going on strike as of May 2, 2023, many people wonder what will happen for streaming’s most prominent players like Warner Bros. Discovery, Netflix, Disney+, and more. 

The first thing to know is that the WGA is going on strike over failed negotiations involving pay and streaming residuals. Their contract for negotiation expired on May 1. 

The second thing to know is how it will affect scripted versus unscripted television. Scripted television refers to fictional, scripted series and mini-series with a scripted storyline. Unscripted television is considered non-fiction or reality-based such as documentaries, documentary series, true crime, game shows, variety shows, reality TV, and paranormal programming.

As the strike kicks off, one of the biggest concerns is which streaming services have the most to lose. In this case, the platforms with the most scripted content stand to lose more because they rely on writers for new scripted content.

We compiled data to take a snapshot of all television shows on various U.S. streaming platforms as of March 13th, 2023. First, we looked at the primary streaming services: Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Paramount+, Discovery+, Prime Video, Disney+, and Peacock.

As you can see in our chart, Netflix could stand to take the biggest hit, with nearly 75% of its programming being scripted, with Amazon Prime and HBO Max following closely behind. However, these streaming giants also have enormous catalogs and a large amount of content not scripted by U.S.-based writers, which could ease the blow and help them come out on top. 

Discovery+ stands to feel the least loss because its programming is primarily based in genres including documentary and reality TV, as a whopping 93% of its offering is non-scripted. 

Hulu, Peacock, Disney+, and Paramount+ have deep catalogs containing old programming. For example, Disney+ has the entire Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars catalog for viewers to rewatch. In addition, Hulu has comfort titles like Friends, while Peacock has The Office to keep subscribers unsubscribing. 

The past couple of years have proven volatile for streaming, and the writers’ strike will undoubtedly add to the speculation and continued success.