Hollywood's facade is decorated by picket lines and placards. The WGA (Writers Guild of America) and SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), are currently on strike for their 5th and 3rd respective months, demanding better compensation and working conditions. The implications of this standoff are critical for workers, studios, and shareholders alike.
The WGA asserts that fulfilling its demands alone would cost the studios a combined $343 million per year, while Moody's estimates that meeting the demands of all three guilds (including the Directors Guild of America) would cost the studios (combined) between $450-600 million annually.
Though these costs might seem hefty, they pale in comparison to the studios' colossal revenues. When digging into the reported numbers, they amount to a fraction of a percent of their annual revenues.
A closer look at the balance sheets reveals that studios could very feasibly meet these demands without torpedoing profitability. Warner Bros. Discovery alone has reported that the ongoing strikes will dent its 2023 earnings by $300-500 million — 6 to 10 times the estimated cost of $47 million to meet the writers’ demands (equivalent to 0.1% of its estimated $42.4 billion in revenue for 2023). If one studio is already facing such losses, the aggregate hit to the industry could be staggering.
Meanwhile, Disney's estimated 2023 revenue is $89.1 billion. It would cost Disney an estimated $75 million to meet WGA’s demands, which accounts for less than 0.1% of that revenue.
While the demands may seem burdensome to certain stakeholders, the cost of ongoing strikes may also manifest in the erosion of brand value and investor confidence, along with a blow to future revenues. The effects to content pipelines may cause subscriber numbers to falter, affecting revenue streams and investor returns.
Meanwhile, The SAG-AFTRA and WGA are not just fighting for more money; they're fighting for fair pay, humane treatment, and the survival of their profession amid record inflation and the advent of artificial intelligence in the industry.
In the end, a fractional increase in operational costs to meet worker demands could very well be a prudent investment to sustain profitability and secure long-term investor returns for film and tv studios.
The financial impacts, however, shouldn’t overshadow that workers are merely protecting their dignity and livelihood. The numbers show that by meeting these demands, studios would be both showing support for their workers and potentially saving money in the short and long term. In this scenario, workers and shareholders may find that their interests are not mutually exclusive, but actually aligned.
- How might the ongoing strikes impact studios' valuations?
- What is the long-term cost of not addressing worker demands for studios you're invested in?
- Do you consider ethical labor practices as part of your investment criteria?
- If a shareholder vote arises next year on meeting the guilds' demands, how would you vote?
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The companies shown in inset infographics are included because of their relevance to the Hollywood strikes. The purpose of these infographics is to demonstrate the information provided in the Fennel app for a $4.99/mo. subscription, along with how this information relates to current events.
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