NYC Comptroller, Pensions Urge Hollywood CEOs to Resolve Strikes

Brad Lander warns that a prolonged work stoppage may harm the ‘long-term stability' of investments held by the city’s pension funds.

New York City Comptroller Brad Lander is calling on Disney, Paramount and Comcast to resolve the ongoing strikes in Hollywood over concerns they could “threaten the long-term stability” of investments in the companies held by the city’s five pension funds.

The New York City Retirement System, which manages more than $250 billion in assets, collectively own approximately 6.3 million shares in Comcast’s NBCUniversal Media LLC worth $272.7 million, 2.7 million shares in the Walt Disney Co. valued at $229.2 million, and 21,000 Class A shares and 691,000 Class B shares in Paramount Pictures Corp. worth more than $10 million. In toto, those stakes amount to around 0.2% of the pension program’s assets.

Lander, on behalf of the other trustees of the city’s pension funds, sent letters to Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts, Disney CEO Bob Iger and Paramount CEO and President Robert Bakish urging them to address the ongoing strikes by the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

“My fellow NYCRS trustees and I have a fiduciary duty to safeguard the financial stability of our members’ assets and address issues that may present risks to NYCRS’ investments,” Lander said in the letters. He also said that he is “concerned that the underlying business practices which led to this conflict, if not resolved, may threaten the long-term stability of NYCRS’ investments in your company.”

Landers noted that thousands of professional writers belonging to the WGA started picketing May 2 and that the SAG-AFTRA, which represents 160,000 actors and performers, has been on strike since July 14.

“Growing production delays and cancellations resulting from the strikes pose risks to all media companies,” Lander wrote. “Streaming services rely on a continuous influx of new scripted content to keep customers subscribed and engaged. The longer that new content is delayed, the greater the risk that consumers will cancel their services.”

Landers added that the risks from the strikes are “particularly pronounced” for traditional media companies like Comcast, Disney and Paramount because of the importance of broadcast and cable television to their businesses.

“The strikes’ disruption to the writing and production of dozens of scripted series intended for fall 2023 debuts will lead to delays in fall broadcast programming and potentially truncated seasons, along with postponed theatrical releases,” he wrote.

He added: “The impact will extend to these traditional media companies’ new streaming businesses, which must compete with tech companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Apple and which rely on a steady flow of new broadcast episodes and theatrical movies to supplement the original programming on their platforms.”

Representatives for Disney, Paramount and Comcast did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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