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Monday, February 11, 2008

Strike Resolved ... What It Means

A tentative deal between writers and producers was reached on Saturday; work in Hollywood could resume as soon as Wednesday. The big win for the Writer's Guild of America was securing a percentage of revenues when shows and movies are delivered online (rather than receiving a fixed fee.)

Cynthia Littleton of Variety has some thoughtful analysis of what the WGA strike meant to TV and screenwriters, in economic terms. She writes:

    For the WGA, it was all about setting precedent and cementing the idea that scribes deserve to be paid for Internet exploitation of their work. More specifically, they wanted a deal that paid them a percentage of distributor's gross, on the principle that "when you get paid, we get paid."

    But the cost of achieving that principle through a strike has been considerable -- particularly for the busiest and most successful WGA members with the most to lose. Meanwhile, the money to be made through the hard-fought new-media residuals is not exactly eye-popping.

    A TV writer, for example, will earn about $1,400-$1,600 a year for each streamed episode on which he is the credited writer -- while some showrunners may have lost as much as six figures from unproduced episodes. Screenwriters will probably earn less from this new income source, as Web streaming of movies is not nearly as ubiquitous as streaming of TV programs.


The Wall Street Journal says:

    Whether the advances the WGA made on winning new-media income will ever be worth anything remains to be seen. Some of the producers feel they have made a considerable concession in agreeing to pay the writers a percentage rather than a flat fee. But even the studios have little idea of what impact the Internet will have on the industry by the time the next negotiation comes around in 2011.

    "There are important issues that remain unresolved and there are more discussions to be had over the next contract," said David Young, the WGA's West Coast executive director.


Reaching an accord with the Screen Actors Guild is next on the to-do list, according to the New York Times.

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