Update on the Writers’ Strike

by Alex

On November 29, the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) disseminated this press release:

The AMPTP today unveiled a New Economic Partnership to the WGA, which includes groundbreaking moves in several areas of new media, including streaming, content made for new media and programming delivered over digital broadcast channels. The entire value of the New Economic Partnership will deliver more than $130 million in additional compensation above and beyond the more than $1.3 billion writers already receive each year. In response, the WGA has asked for time to study the proposals. While we strongly preferred to continue discussions, we respect and understand the WGA’s desire to review the proposals. We look forward to resuming talks on Tuesday, December 4.

We continue to believe that there is common ground to be found between the two sides, and that our proposal for a New Economic Partnership offers the best chance to find it.

Golly, sounds great, right?

Wrong.

When the WGA Negotiating Committee reported back to us, what we learned was this:

“In fact, for the first three days of this week, the companies presented in essence their November 4 package with not an iota of movement on any of the issues that matter to writers.

Thursday morning, the first new proposal was finally presented to us. It dealt only with streaming and made-for-Internet jurisdiction, and it amounts to a massive rollback.

For streaming television episodes, the companies proposed a residual structure of a single fixed payment of less than $250 for a year’s reuse of an hour-long program (compared to over $20,000 payable for a network rerun). For theatrical product they are offering no residuals whatsoever for streaming.”

— Let me repeat that. The current residual rate on a TV show is $20,000 for a year, and they’re offering $250. That’s if it’s not deemed “promotional.” If it’s promotional there’s no payment at all. And the residual on movies is still $0.—-

“For made-for-Internet material, they offered minimums that would allow a studio to produce up to a 15 minute episode of network-derived web content for a script fee of $1300. They continued to refuse to grant jurisdiction over original content for the Internet.

In their new proposal, they made absolutely no move on the download formula (which they propose to pay at the DVD rate), and continue to assert that they can deem any reuse “promotional,” and pay no residual (even if they replay the entire film or TV episode and even if they make money).”

How did the writers respond? We’re furious. And galvanized. We had 90% membership support for the strike to begin with, and after that “proposal” I’d say it’s more like 99%. I haven’t heard a single voice saying that this was an acceptable offer in any way.

Let’s just compare some numbers from the writers’ side. The WGA has prepared a comprehensive economic justification for our proposals.

“Our entire package would cost this industry $151 million over three years. That’s a little over a 3% increase in writer earnings each year, while company revenues are projected to grow at a rate of 10%. We are falling behind.”

This is the part I want you to read closely:

“For Sony, this entire deal would cost $1.68 million per year. For Disney $6.25 million. Paramount and CBS would each pay about $4.66 million, Warner about $11.2 million, Fox $6.04 million, and NBC/Universal $7.44 million. MGM would pay $320,000 and the entire universe of remaining companies would assume the remainder of about $8.3 million per year.”

We all know those numbers are a drop in the bucket compared to what those corporations make on our work every year. We will never back down from our goal of getting a fair share of the internet.

And if the AMPTP thinks we’re tired, they’re asleep. At the latest membership meeting members yelled at the board for cutting back the picketing hours. One writer shouted, “This is a strike, not a vacation!”, and got thunderous applause.

It’s our future, and we’ll keep fighting for it until we win a reasonable share.

Now, here’s some good news:

Out of 180 TV shows being tracked, only 12 are still in production.

Advertisers are starting to realize that they’re not going to be getting much bang for their buck with the whole regular TV season shut down.

And if you’d like to help put pressure on the companies to start negotiating seriously and fairly, this site, Consumers Support the WGA, has links to feedback forms for major advertisers and is conducting an organized effort to push major companies to help end the 2007 writers’ strike.

The User Information link on the page tells you everything you need to know about the project. (Direct link to instructions here

Thanks, as always, for listening.

(More background on the Writers’ Strike and actions you can take here:)

13 thoughts on “Update on the Writers’ Strike

  1. Louise Ure

    X-

    Thanks for the details. I knew their offer was smarmy when the press release started off with the total amount instead of a percentage on each distribution method. Oh, the slipperyness of numbers.

    Reply
  2. Rae

    Wow. That offer is really offensive. I hope the writers can hold out long enough to get what they’ve earned – best wishes to them.

    Reply
  3. Dave Zeltserman

    Alex, here’s my fear about all this–that the networks end up realizing they can make more money on junk TV (reality shows, star searches/gong show clones, mud wrestling with the stars, etc.) and this leads to the death of network dramas and sitcoms. I’ve been afraid of this for years when I see the crap my nieces and their friends watch, which I’m assuming is what a lot of 20-30 year olds watch. Btw. One went to U Penn, the other Haverford, both with law degrees, and all they watch is reality shows and other such junk, and I have this sinking feeling they’re fairly representative of other people their age–and they’re the demographics networks are going after.

    Reply
  4. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Sorry, Dave, cross-posted with you and didn’t see this.

    You may be right, but here’s something to look at that might assuage your fears a bit- the advertisers DON’T think that they’re going to make anywhere near the same kind of money advertising on reality.

    Reply
  5. pari

    X,This is just appalling. I noticed the other night that Leno is running shows from a decade ago. Pretty soon viewers will be in re-run hell and that will have an impact, too.

    Thank you so much for breaking it down for us.

    This fight has become even more important in the face of such blatant disrespect from the AMPTP.

    I’m just shaking my head.

    Advertisers Beware,With TV being so lousy, we’re going to all resort to books . . .

    Reply
  6. Dave Zeltserman

    Alex, I hope you’re right. It’s going to be interesting to see what HBO, Showtime, etc. does, since they’re at immediate risk of losing subscribers/revenues–my guess they’ll be going to the UK for new show. Also be interesting to see what happens with Letterman, Leno, Conan, etc., since each of them are losing some pretty big bucks each week–Letterman alone has to be losing about a half a mil a week.

    Reply
  7. Simon Owens

    I don’t understand why some of you don’t bypass these producers altogether and just start creating your own online content — the writers have already proven they can produce popular youtube videos.

    Reply

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