Writers Guild, WME Postpone Trial as Franchise Agreement Talks Continue

WME remains final agency to not sign an agreement with WGA to represent writers

The Writers Guild of America and William Morris Endeavor have agreed to postpone their upcoming federal trial until February 2022 as the two sides continue to work towards a deal to sign a franchise agreement that will allow the Hollywood agency to represent writers again and end an industry dispute over packaging fees and agency-affiliated production companies that dates back to 2018.

In court documents obtained by TheWrap, attorneys for both sides filed a request to push back the trial six months from its previous trial date of August 24. The trial stems from a lawsuit filed by WME, CAA, and UTA last summer accusing the Writers Guild of participating in an illegal boycott by having its members terminate their representation with any agency that does not agree to phase out packaging fees, payments from a studio to an agency in exchange for packaging talent on a project that have been called a conflict of interest by the WGA. Since then, every agency except WME has signed a franchise agreement requiring them to phase out packaging fees by June 30, 2022; including CAA and UTA, which have withdrawn from the lawsuit.

The major sticking point between WME and WGA is the agency’s controlling interest in affiliate production studio Endeavor Content. The franchise agreement requires agencies and any private equity firms that own those agencies, such as WME’s equity owners Silver Lake, to hold no more than a combined 20% share in an affiliate production studio. The two sides have been at odds over how the agency should adhere to this rule, leading WME to request federal judge Andre Birotte Jr. to order the guild to end the boycott. Birotte refused, saying that federal law prohibits judges from intervening in non-violent labor disputes.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.

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