To make services like Disney+, Paramount+ and Max (formerly HBO Max) profitable, their parent companies have slashed billions of dollars in costs and eliminated more than 10,000 jobs. Studio executives also put the brakes on ordering new television series last year to rein in costs.
WarnerBros. Discovery has said its streaming business, anchored by Max, will be profitable in 2023. Disney has promised profitability by September 2024, while Paramount had not forecast a date, except to say peak losses will occur this year, according to Rich Greenfield, a founder of the LightShed Partners research firm.
Giving in to union demands, which would threaten streaming profitability anew, is not something the companies will do without a fight.
“In the short term, there will be pain,” said Tara Kole, a founding partner of JSSK, an entertainment law firm that counts Emma Stone, Adam McKay and Halle Berry as clients. “A lot of pain.”
Every indication points to a long and destructive standoff. Agents who have worked in show business for 40 years said the anger surging through Hollywood exceeded anything they had ever seen.
“Straight out of ‘Les Miz’” was how one longtime executive described the high-drama, us-against-them mood in a text to a reporter. Photos circulating online from this past week’s Allen & Company Sun Valley media conference, the annual “billionaires’ summer camp” attended by Hollywood’s haves, inflamed the situation.
On a Paramount Pictures picket line on Friday, Ms. Drescher attacked Mr. Iger, something few people in Hollywood would dare to do without the cloak of anonymity. She criticized his pay package (his performance-based contract allows for up to $27 million annually, including stock awards, which is middle of the road for entertainment chief executives) and likened him and other Hollywood moguls to “land barons of a medieval time.”