LOS ANGELES (AP) – Hollywood writers will begin a strike Monday morning unless the writers and studios can agree on a last-minute deal for a new contract over the weekend, union officials said Friday.

“The studios made it clear that they would rather shut down this town than reach a fair and reasonable deal,” said Patric Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America West.

A posting on a guild Web site said the walkout would begin at 3:01 a.m. EST and all work by members had to cease. More details were promised over the weekend.

It would be the first strike in nearly 20 years for the writers union.

The union’s board made the announcement on timing. The plan to strike was first disclosed on Thursday night at a meeting attended by 3,000 union members.

Union leaders said they would delay the action if producers showed movement in negotiations – especially on the key issue of paying writers when TV episodes are sold or streamed over the Internet.

Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, said his group was ready to meet and finish negotiations.

The first casualty of the strike will likely be late-night talk shows, which are dependent on current events to fuel monologues and other entertainment.

The strike will not immediately have an impact on film or prime-time TV production. Most studios have stockpiled dozens of movie scripts, and TV shows have enough scripts or completed shows in hand to last until early next year.

Guild members already had authorized their negotiators to call the first strike since 1988. That strike lasted 22 weeks and cost the industry about $500 million.

Talks between writers and producers could affect upcoming negotiations involving actors and directors.

While the revenue generated by Internet sales and rentals of films and TV shows is minuscule compared to DVDs, the guild said Internet revenue eventually will become dominant.

Consumers are expected to spend $16.4 billion on DVDs this year, according to Adams Media Research.

By contrast, studios could generate about $158 million from selling movies online and about $194 million from selling TV shows over the Web.

Studios argue that it is too early to know how much money they can make from offering entertainment on the Internet, cell phones, iPods and other devices.

Producers are uncertain whether consumers prefer a pay-per-view model over an advertising-supported system. They want the economic flexibility to experiment as consumer habits change in reaction to technology.


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