One Streaming TV Site to Rule Them All?

If you thought the flood of new shows being presented on, well, on all manner of video media for the last half decade was overwhelming, prepare your water-treading skills, brothers and sisters, because the deluge has barely begun!

The Great Race to Rule Streaming TV
by Jonah Weiner

When Nick Weidenfeld heard what happened at HBO last summer, he was thrilled. “Everyone I knew was texting that article around, saying, ‘What the [expletive]!’?” Weidenfeld, an independent TV producer, recently recalled. A lot of people who work in Hollywood were spooked by the news, but not him: “I thought it was amazing.”

Weidenfeld was discussing the events of June 19, 2018, as reported in The Times: Around noon that day, Richard Plepler, then HBO’s chief executive officer, met with his new boss, John Stankey, at the network’s Manhattan headquarters. AT&T had recently completed its $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner — whose holdings included Warner Bros. and HBO — and chose Stankey to head up the resulting umbrella company, WarnerMedia. Plepler’s conversation with Stankey, framed as a company town hall, unfolded before some 150 HBO employees, who soon discovered that the new guy had big changes in mind.

“It’s going to be a tough year,” Stankey told Plepler. HBO’s tightly curated cluster of shows, released seasonally and in weekly batches, no longer amounted to a tenable strategy. “It’s not hours a week, and it’s not hours a month,” he said. “We need hours a day. You are competing with devices that sit in people’s hands that capture their attention every 15 minutes.” Ever more hours of overall watch-time were necessary to generate ever more data on viewing habits to help AT&T drive ever more lucrative “models of advertising” and subscriptions, Stankey declared. What was required of Plepler was a reconsidered network, “broad enough to make that happen,” as Stankey put it — because “we’ve got to make money at the end of the day, right?” When Plepler pointed out that HBO was already profitable, Stankey agreed, but then he added, “Just not enough.”

“It’s so good he said it,” Weidenfeld told me, sinking into a booth at Mama Shelter, a hotel in Hollywood where he likes to take working lunches and rough out deals. Weidenfeld, who is 39, sported a full beard and wore a color-blocked fleece pullover. His business lies in helping creators devise and develop shows, then in selling them to networks and platforms — and thanks to the industrywide hunger for “hours a day,” business is booming….

Read it all at nytimes.com

WGAW 2019 Officers and Board of Directors Election Results

via TVWriter™ Press Service

EDITOR’S NOTE: Current Writers Guild of America policy regarding agents, agencies, and TV series packaging were backed by a solid 77% of the voters in this year’s election. Solidarity! for the win.  Here’s the Guild’s official announcement.


The Writers Guild of America West today announced the results of its 2019 Officers and Board of Directors election.

The following members were elected to serve as Officers: President – David A. Goodman (inc.); Vice President – Marjorie David (inc.); Secretary-Treasurer – Michele Mulroney.

The following eight members were elected to the WGAW’s Board of Directors for two-year terms, effective immediately: Liz Alper, Angelina Burnett (inc.), Robb Chavis, Dante W. Harper, Zoe Marshall, Luvh Rakhe (inc.), Meredith Stiehm (inc.), Nicole Yorkin (inc.). *Note: (inc) denotes incumbent.

NUMERICAL VOTING RESULTS

President: David A. Goodman (4,395), Phyllis Nagy (1,282).

Vice President: Marjorie David (4,708).

Secretary-Treasurer: Michele Mulroney (4,164), Nick Jones, Jr. (1,256), Evette Vargas (203).

Board of Directors: Meredith Stiehm (4,115), Luvh Rakhe (4,000), Liz Alper (3,967), Angelina Burnett (3,960), Nicole Yorkin (3,874), Zoe Marshall (3,819), Robb Chavis (3,679), Dante W. Harper (3,628), Marc Guggenheim (1,488), Sarah Treem (1,476), Nicholas Kazan (1,462), Courtney A. Kemp (1,418), Jason Fuchs (1,270), Rasheed Newson (1,255), Ayelet Waldman (1,203), Ashley Edward Miller (1,160), Mike Mariano (715).

Write-in votes are not included in the totals and not every ballot contained votes for every office.

A total of 5,809 valid ballots were cast. Representing 58% of eligible voters (9,988), this turnout is the largest in Guild history and more than doubles the previous record turnout of 2,475 in the 2018 Board of Directors election.

The ballot count was supervised by Votenet Solutions, assisted by the WGAW Tellers Committee, which tabulated the mail-in ballots

LB: “We Are All Writers”

by Larry Brody

In her home town of Hong Kong, Shiela Cancino is a special sort of “rock star.” Businesswoman, activist, toastmaster, author, poet, lyricist, you name it, and if it has to do with moving words and positive values, Shiela does it, and does it very well.

I feel a special closeness to Shiela because she’s also a former student of TVWriter University (in a super cool Special Master Class and was co-director of a Hong Kong spinoff of Cloud Creek Institute for the Arts. (Some of you may remember that name, yeah?)

I met Shiela when I was a judge at a Hong Kong song writing competition, which she won. Recently, she sent me a copy of her latest song, which I’m proud to share here.


WE ARE ALL WRITERS

Lyrics by Shiela Cancino
Music by Franniel Music
Performed by Franniel Music

Shiela’s YouTube Channel

 

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #63 – “The Luminous Ordinary”

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THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

by Larry Brody

When it comes to real life, I’m late to the party.

I lived the first part of my life—my childhood—with books. Well, mostly in them. And in television and films, losing myself in the fantasies and paying little to no attention to what went on around me.

I lived the second part of my life—most of my adult years—with books and television and film too, but by this point I no longer was the audience. I was a creator.

This was a stranger existence than it may seem. Because as a union card-carrying member of show business, I lived in what was, for all practical purposes, a bubble. I was in the in-crowd, and, as the old song says, “We got our own way of walkin’, yeah, yeah. Our own way of talkin’, yeah, yeah.”

In fact, show business is its own world, with its own leaders to please, peers to hang with, and subordinates to scream at. It’s own values and beliefs.

(Such as: “It’s okay for me to ignore my family and make them miserable. There’re only four of them, and I’m bringing happiness to millions!”)

Even the dark side of showbiz is unique. Men and women in the showbiz world aren’t punished by being slapped upside the head but by being harangued.

It’s all about hurt feelings, not flesh. And instead of ambushing enemies and killing them, the bad guys get together and fire ‘em. “You’ll never get a phone call in this town again!”

You know, like being thrown out of cult. It seems like death, but that’s only because you’ve never experienced the real thing.

In the early 1990s, after many years of showbiz-bubble-cult life, I knew I had to get out. That if I didn’t I’d forever be part of a community where a plastic surgeon who could give a tight tummy tuck was more highly respected than a researcher closing in on the cure for the big C.

Off I went, driving to I wasn’t sure where, with my dog (I called her the Navajo Dog because I’d found her on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona) and my drums and my comic book collection.

Forty-five years old and bringing Captain America and Spider-Man with me wherever I went. And never thinking about it twice. I didn’t have to worry about letting out my “inner child.” My problem was finding a way to put him back in his place.

Amazingly, I’d never before been alone. As in responsible for myself with no support troops nearby. No agent. No assistant. No wife. No one to lean on or consult with. Or hide behind.

Oh, and no job. No investments.

No income.

As I barreled down the I-40 I saw a hawk soar through the sky after another, smaller bird. The hawk dove directly at its prey…and missed. I couldn’t hear anything but the radio playing inside the car, but I knew the hawk was screeching its frustration.

And its message as well: To live free means risk. You’re free to celebrate…or to starve.

Sure, you already know that. Everyone knows that. It’s part of life.

But all I knew was fantasy. Pretend. The moment that hawk missed its meal—that was the true moment of my birth.

My initiation into the truth of real life.

Its uncertainty. Its risk.

I loved it! Couldn’t imagine why I’d spent so long hiding.

Still can’t.

I love being out here in the real world, where the fight for survival never ends. Where moments of triumph and joy go hand in hand, where being kicked in the teeth is its own reason to pick yourself up off the ground and get back in the game.

I bring all this up because recently I received an e-mail from a reader whose work and life I respect. And who seems to understand what I’m doing writing this column better than I do. She wrote:

“By focusing on the Luminous Ordinary, you are able to craft Extraordinary tales of wisdom and grace.”

I’m grateful for the praise, but it embarrasses me.

Yes, I do believe the “ordinary” is luminous, as in filled with meaning and light. But I’ll go to my death clueless about any wisdom or grace attached to the stories I tell.

All I know about them is they come straight from my heart.

And are aimed—sometimes with more certainty or skill and sometimes with less—straight at yours.

Hollywood Ethics – The Skeletons in Television’s Closet

NOTE FROM LB: The following report about the 5 yearish long lawsuit between the stars and creators and and producer of Bones – profit participants all – has absolutely nothing to do with the ongoing dispute between Hollywood writers and agents.

I repeat: They have nothing to do with each other.

On the other hand, the Bones fight and last week’s settlement do shed a great deal of light on a way of thinking that I think explains much about the history of the WGA-ATA rift.

Read on, my friends, and keep your eyes peeled between the lines.


Fox Settles ‘Bones’ Suit, Ending Profits Case That Stunned Hollywood
by Eriq Gardner

After nearly half a decade battling the creative team behind one of TV’s biggest hits, Fox has finally reached a settlement that will end the huge lawsuits over profit sharing for Bones. On Wednesday, the parties filed dismissal papers in Los Angeles Superior Court. The dispute draws to its conclusion, but amid continued consolidation in the media sphere and new streaming platforms being launched by studio giants the brawl over Bones is not likely to be forgotten anytime soon.

Back in 2015, actors Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz, Kathy Reichs (a forensic anthropologist who authored the Temperance Brennan novels that formed the basis for the series) and executive vp Barry Josephson went to court with the allegation that they had been defrauded by Fox of their rightful profit participation in a show that ultimately lasted 12 seasons. The profits, or lack thereof, became heavily dependent on what Fox’s studio division (a production arm now owned by Disney) charged Fox’s distribution affiliates — a broadcast network, foreign stations and, especially, the part-owned Hulu — for rights to air and stream the show. The main issue in the case was whether Fox undercharged license fees to its sister companies to derive much of the spoils of the series to the detriment of those expecting honest accounting.

In February, arbitrator Peter Lichtman released an eye-popping decision.

Awarding $179 million in damages, Lichtman rejected Fox’s proposition that Bones was just a middling show with middling ratings that would have been canceled but for higher license fees. The arbitrator saw evidence of multiple frauds on Fox’s part, including the underhanded way the production company attempted to limit its liability over the years by having creative talent sign releases. Additionally, Lichtman found it nearly inexplicable that the Fox studio producing Bones permitted its parent company to exploit streaming rights and license those rights to Hulu without much of anything in return.

But the truly shocking part of Lichtman’s decision was his attack on Fox’s top television executives (many of whom now work for Disney). The arbitrator said these individuals “appear to have given false testimony in an attempt to conceal their wrongful acts” and that Rupert Murdoch’s Fox at large has taken a “cavalier attitude toward its wrongdoing” while exhibiting a “company-wide culture and an accepted climate that enveloped an aversion for the truth.”

Lichtman believed in the necessity of punitive damages given Fox’s “reprehensible” fraud.

The parties then went back to open court, and an L.A. judge in May trimmed the award down to $51 million on the basis that Deschanel, Boreanaz and Reichs were entitled to actual damages and legal fees under their Bones agreements, but not any punitive damages….

Read it all at hollywoodreporter.com