Tony Awards Broadcast May Continue After Striking Writers' Union Agree

This year's Tony Awards ceremony, which has been in doubt since Hollywood screenwriters went on strike earlier this month, will go ahead as scheduled in an altered form after the writers' union said late Monday it would not vote for the event.

“Because they have supported us, we stand with our colleagues on Broadway who were impacted by our strike,” the Writers Guild of America, which represents screenwriters, said in a statement late Monday.

Disruption could hurt Broadway, which sees televised ceremonies as a key marketing opportunity, especially now, when audiences have not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Some of the shows that were nominated have operated at a loss, holding out in the hope that a Tony win – or even exposure on broadcast – might boost sales.

The union made it clear that the broadcast, which is scheduled to air on CBS on June 11, will be different from previous ceremonies. But the union did not specify what the differences were, and the administrators of the Tony Awards had no immediate comment. The broadcast is expected to still feature the awards for best play and musical of the 2022-2023 Broadway season, but it's unclear how the musical number, which is key to many shows, will be affected.

“Tony Awards Productions (a joint venture of the Broadway League and Theater Wing of America) have communicated to us that they are changing this year's show to suit specific requests from the WGA, and therefore the WGA will not be stopping the show,” the union said in a statement. statement. “The responsibility for changing the format of the 2023 Tony Awards rests entirely with Paramount/CBS and their allies. They continue to refuse to negotiate fair contracts for writers represented by the WGA.”

While the Tony Awards aren't a huge ratings draw compared to other awards shows, the televised ceremony is an important marketing opportunity for the theater industry, which still draws audiences far below pre-pandemic numbers.

It became clear soon after the screenwriters' strike that the labor disruption could affect the Tony Awards, as the award ceremonies are televised (by CBS) and live (by Paramount+) and usually feature scripts written by screenwriters.

Broadway is a highly unionized industry, and unionized theater workers such as actors and musicians will not participate in awards ceremonies other unions protest. Administrators of the Tony Awards, aware of the concerns, requested a WGA waiver that would allow their writers to work on the event, given the theater industry's difficulties; on Friday, the WGA rejected the request, and on Monday night reaffirmed that rejection, saying that the union “will not be negotiating a provisional agreement or waiver for the Tony Awards.”

But Tony Awards administrators didn't give up, and asked the union if, even without a waiver to allow screenwriters to work on the show, it would allow broadcasts to continue without writers as long as certain conditions were met.

Top theater artists who work on Broadway and are allied with the writers' union have also spoken out on behalf of the Tonys, arguing that stopping the show would be detrimental to the art form and the many arts workers it employs. A combination of lobbying efforts and new conditions—which neither Broadway officials nor union officials specified—seemed to have prompted the union to say Monday night it would not be stopping broadcasts.

Striking screenwriters argue that their wages have stagnated and working conditions have worsened despite the boom in television production over the past decade. Negotiations between major Hollywood studios – represented by the Film and Television Producers Alliance – and the WGA broke down three weeks ago. About 11,500 writers went on strike starting May 2.

For the past two weeks, the writers have lined up picket lines outside of major studios in Los Angeles and producing soundstages in New York. But writers have also gone further, with some taking production beyond production in more distant locations such as Maplewood, NJ, Chicago and Philadelphia.

The threat of demonstrations forced Netflix to cancel its main in-person show for advertisers, which was scheduled for Wednesday, and convert it to a virtual format. The company also canceled an appearance by Ted Sarandos, Netflix's co-chief executive, at the PEN America Literary Gala at the Museum of Natural History on Thursday, where he was slated to be honored alongside longtime “Saturday Night Live” executive producer Lorne Michaels.