TV, film writers strike averted as tentative deal reached after contract deadline passed

LOS ANGELES -- Hollywood  writers and producers reached a tentative contract agreement early Tuesday as talks continued past the midnight strike deadline, averting a costly walkout that would have immediately sent late night talk shows into reruns and eventually impacted scripted series and feature films in development.

A spokesman for film and television producers, Jarryd Gonzalez, confirmed reports that the tentative pact had  been agreed on.

The Writers Guild of America said the tentative deal would cover its writers for three years if ratified by its members.

The guild's negotiaitng committee released a statement to its members saying in part, "Did we get everything we wanted? No. Everything we deserve? Certainly not. But because we had the near-unanimous backing of you and your fellow writers, we were able to achieve a deal that will net this Guild's members $130 million more, over the life of the contract, than the pattern we were expected to accept."

Cmpensation and health care issues had been the major sticking points of this contract's negotiations. 

The deal's announcement came more than 90 minutes after the previous contract expired. Picketing could have started Tuesday morning.

The WGA and producers negotiated since March 13.

Guild members voted overwhelmingly last month to authorize a strike, and the WGA could have called for an immediate walkout Tuesday.

The two sides held to a media blackout during negotiations and declined to provide updates on how far apart they were.

Still, Variety reported early Tuesday that the talks had been successful:

The Hollywood Reporter was also among the first to say there'd been a breakthrough:

The previous writers' strike in 2007-08 lasted 100 days and cost California's economy an estimated $2 billion. It immediately sent late-night talk shows into reruns and gradually took a wider toll on TV sitcoms and dramas and movie production.

That strike garnered support from other segments of the entertainment industry, including actors who joined picket lines and lent other help to the writers.

Before the tentative deal was reached, writer-actress Lena Dunham said she would back a strike this time.

"I would never have had the health coverage I had without the union, and that's one of the main points in this," Dunham said at the Met Gala on Monday night.

Actress Debra Winger said she would support any reasonable job action by the writers, but was mindful of the damage it would cause.

"I'm thinking of all the businesses that I work with at Warner Bros. for several months out of the year and (the) restaurants, shoe repair, dry cleaners," Winger said during an interview promoting her new film, "The Lovers." ''The last writers' strike affected the city of Los Angeles in a devastating way."

At the Met Gala in New York Monday night, CBS chairman and CEO Les Moonves said he was guardedly optimistic that a deal would be reached without a strike.