Otis College of Art and Design has been a leading chronicler of California’s creative economy, most notably through the annual Otis College Report on the Creative Economy. Commissioned annually since 2007, the Report focuses on the ways in which California’s creative industries form an essential part of its overall economy.
In advance of the forthcoming report, Otis is releasing two targeted and topical research studies on the state of L.A.'s film and television industry. This first snapshot of the industry, and prelude to subsequent research, includes an analysis of the factors shaping employment trends in the industry, as well as in-depth interviews with industry professionals.
The recent WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes caused a major rupture in Hollywood, but they represented an expression of underlying changes that have been shaping the industry for the past decade. To understand how these changes might impact the entertainment industry, Otis College commissioned Westwood Economics and Planning Associates to explore contemporary issues the industry faces, including employment trends, technology change, production infrastructure and capacity, and other pressing topics.
The study reveals that the strikes have had a noticeable impact on entertainment industry employment, as well as shooting activity, but that these changes should be considered within the context of a broader restructuring that is occurring across the industry. The strikes may have ended, but important questions remain about the Industry’s trajectory. The key findings of the report are as follows:
- From May 2023 (when the Writer’s Guild first took strike action) to October 2023, there was a 17% drop in the number of workers employed in the Entertainment Industry in Greater Los Angeles.
- These job losses have varied by occupation. Actors and Writers— who were on strike—have seen the biggest employment contraction, while Producers and Directors, Agents and Managers, and Artists and Related Workers have seen modest employment growth over this period.
- Job Posting data—which tracks hiring activity—shows a divide between Production and Management occupations, with contraction in the former and some growth in the latter.
- During the strikes, many of the post-pandemic employment gains have been erased. However, the strikes had a much smaller impact on employment in the Industry than the losses emerging from the pandemic-related halts to production. This is because the pandemic led to the virtual shutdown of most forms of production, whereas this year production has continued in non-striking parts of the Industry, such as Reality TV and Commercials.
- Beyond the short-term impact, the strikes should be understood within the context of a broader restructuring of the Industry: employment was contracting in the Industry even before the strikes. Employment in the Industry peaked in May 2016, and reached nearly the same level in August 2022. Since this time, employment has shrunk by 26%.
- The bigger picture reveals that Peak TV, rather than the strikes, represents the more enduring threat to employment in the Industry.
- An arms race among streaming platforms heralded a surge in production between 2016 and 2022, as platforms pursued subscriber growth at all costs. As this business model has transitioned into one which emphasizes profitability and sustainability, we have likely reached the highwater mark in production.
- In addition, Artificial Intelligence, which figured prominently in strike negotiations, is a looming threat to employment in Hollywood, given its capacity to perform an increasing number of functions within the industry.