David Letterman reached a deal on December 28 with the union for striking screenwriters. The agreement will let his show return to the air next week, bringing his writing staff back with him.
The Writers Guild of America called its pact with Letterman a sign of union readiness to negotiate a deal with major film and TV studios to settle Hollywood’s worst labor crisis in 20 years.
The WGA said the agreement included provisions to pay writers for work distributed over the Internet. Compensation for Internet content has been the issue halting negotiations between the WGA and studios causing the writer strikes, now in their eight week, to continue.
The strikes by 10,500 WGA members has harmed the U.S. television industry, postponing production on major motion pictures and causing fears of cancelation of Hollywood awards shows. Many writes have promised to strike outside the Golden Globes and even the Oscars if deals are not reached.
Letterman’s deal will allow The Late Show and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, both owned by Letterman’s World Wide Pants company, to resume CBS broadcasts of new episodes beginning Wednesday. The Late Show has remained off the air, like other shows, and in reruns since November 5 as support to the writers.
This deal will give Letterman a better chance at higher ratings over rivals Jay Leno, of NBC’s The Tonight Show, and even Conan O’Brien’s Late Night show and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live. These shows plan to return the same day as The Late Show without writers.
However WGA strike rules forbid the preparation of any scripted material for shows that striking writers would normally have produced. Since other hosts do not own their shows, unlike Letterman, they will have to wait for their studios to reach separate deal with the WGA.