Latest on WGAW 2020 MBA Negotiations Part 3

It’s contract renegotiation time!

Specifically, it’s that time when the Writers Guild of America sits down with the Association of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) and tries like hell to make our TV, film, and other electronic media writing lives happier, healthier, and more fulfilling.

In other words, we’re looking for ways to be more productive and creative and make more $$$.

This week we’ll be bringing you the full text of the latest missives from the Writers Guild of America negotiating committee on where we are on what probably are the three most important issues.

Here’s #three – streaming tv


Dear Members,

Streaming is the fastest growing segment of the business; global subscription streaming revenue more than doubled over the last four years to $37 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $62 billion in 2023. Disney+ only launched in November of 2019 and has already reported 54.5 million global subscribers. Netflix recently reported almost 183 million global subscribers. The pandemic has cemented streaming’s impending dominance, making starkly clear its economic value. This past March and April, for example, streaming platforms saw their viewership grow by 117% over the previous year. With the rollout of new platforms in the coming months, those numbers will only increase.

STREAMING RESIDUALS

Residual payments are the back end and the backstop of all middle-class writers. They are the way we share in the enduring value of our work and in the continued growth of the business. But in the streaming world, where content stays exclusive to a single global platform, revenue-based residuals that grew along with studio revenue from licensing and foreign sales have been replaced by low annual fixed payments. We have a number of proposals to ensure that this longstanding pact – where we share in the growth of the business – continues in the streaming market.

VIEWING BONUS: In streaming, viewership equates to success for the companies. Writers who create content that attracts large audiences should be rewarded for the success of their work. As viewership grows, so too should residual payments. We are proposing a tiered system of bonuses that is payable, in increments, based on the number of streams on subscription streaming platforms.

INCREASING THE FIXED RESIDUAL PAYMENTS: We also need to increase the fixed payments that apply to both domestic and foreign subscription streaming reuse. As these services grow, the baseline value for constant availability around the world of the programming we create needs to increase. Both Netflix and Amazon have far more foreign subscribers than domestic. Disney+ is on the same path. And yet, the fixed foreign residual for our work is only 35% of the domestic residual in the first year, and it declines after that. This is divorced from the global imperative of the streaming business, where the companies use what we create to attract potentially hundreds and millions of subscribers around the world. We are seeking to significantly increase the foreign residual so that it accurately reflects the value of our work in the foreign market.

COMEDY-VARIETY: These programs have become a staple of streaming services and yet their writers receive minimal residuals for their work. There is no justification for that. We are proposing that comedy-variety writers receive the same kind of residuals that writers who create comedies and dramas on the same subscription streaming services do.

TV REUSE ON AD-SUPPORTED VIDEO ON DEMAND (AVOD): Reruns of TV series on AVOD increasingly replace broadcast network repeats, and they do so by paying us pennies on the dollar. Meanwhile, executives boast about how this on demand availability brings in millions of viewers. We are proposing an increase in the residual for reuse of traditional media on AVOD platforms.

As we enter the global streaming era of the business, the MBA must reflect the realities of writing in the streaming market and ensure that we share in the success these services derive from the programming we create.

In solidarity,

MBA Negotiating Committee

Michele Mulroney, Co-Chair
Shawn Ryan, Co-Chair
Betsy Thomas, Co-Chair

Liz Alper
Arash Amel
John August
Amy Berg
Ashley Nicole Black
Adam Brooks
Francesca Butler
Patti Carr
Robb Chavis
Meg DeLoatch
Travis Donnelly
Kate Erickson
Dante W. Harper
Eric Heisserer
Melissa London Hilfers
Elliott Kalan
Chris Keyser
Adele Lim
Peter Murrieta
Luvh Rakhe
Dailyn Rodriguez
Erica Saleh
Sara Schaeffer
David Slack
Lauren Ashley Smith
Meredith Stiehm
Patric M. Verrone

David A. Goodman, Ex-Officio
Marjorie David, Ex-Officio
Beau Willimon, Ex-Officio
Kathy McGee, Ex-Officio
Bob Schneider, Ex-Officio


More to Come Next Week

Latest on WGAW 2020 MBA Negotiations Part 2

It’s contract renegotiation time!

Specifically, it’s that time when the Writers Guild of America sits down with the Association of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) and tries like hell to make our TV, film, and other electronic media writing lives happier, healthier, and more fulfilling.

In other words, we’re looking for ways to be more productive and creative and make more $$$.

This week we’ll be bringing you the full text of the latest missives from the Writers Guild of America negotiating committee on where we are on what probably are the three most important issues.

Here’s #two – Pension and health benefits


Dear Members,

In 2017, after years of healthcare costs outpacing inflation, we needed more money for our health plan. At the time, our plan was projected to run a deficit of $70 million by 2019. We used our collective power, including taking a strike authorization vote, to secure an increase in the employer contribution rate from 9.5% to 11.5% over the life of the 2017 MBA. Today our health plan is on solid ground; we ran surpluses over the last three years, and increased the number of months our health plan has in reserve.

Now, we need to secure additional funding from our employers in order to put our pension plan on strong enough financial footing to weather this market downturn and preserve pension benefits for future retirees. Currently, our employers contribute 8.5% of our compensation to the plan, which totals almost $150 million annually. While our pension plan is designed to pay out benefits over many decades, federal legislation mandates a short-term focus on investment returns that can threaten our benefits. In 2006, Congress passed the Pension Protection Act (PPA), which added new requirements for pension plans like ours that could require us to make changes quickly in response to a short-term decline in investment returns. Due to this law, and lingering effects of the 2008 market crash, a severe enough market downturn could force us to make future benefit cuts.

An increase in the employer contribution rate is not enough. We need to substantially increase the caps on contributions for screenwriters and writers of long-form TV. Members of teams should get full contributions for their work as individuals, not on reduced amounts simply because they are employed as a team. We also need to increase the type of compensation and residuals subject to benefit contributions. Most TV residuals generate contributions to the pension plan and health funds, but it’s not the same for streaming residuals. As streaming reuse is replacing TV reruns, streaming residuals need to generate contributions to our benefit funds. We need to change that now before streaming residuals replace other residuals, ultimately putting additional financial pressure on both the pension and health funds.

Our pension plan is a critical source of long-term financial security for middle-class writers, and a benefit that writers who came before us fought hard to achieve. Even if you’re early in your career and not thinking about retirement, one day it will come, and we want to make certain your WGA pension will be there for you.

Please check out this explainer video to better understand how the pension plan works and why it’s essential to negotiate increased contributions to defend it.

In solidarity,

MBA Negotiating Committee

Michele Mulroney, Co-Chair
Shawn Ryan, Co-Chair
Betsy Thomas, Co-Chair

Liz Alper
Arash Amel
John August
Amy Berg
Ashley Nicole Black
Adam Brooks
Francesca Butler
Patti Carr
Robb Chavis
Meg DeLoatch
Travis Donnelly
Kate Erickson
Dante W. Harper
Eric Heisserer
Melissa London Hilfers
Elliott Kalan
Chris Keyser
Adele Lim
Peter Murrieta
Luvh Rakhe
Dailyn Rodriguez
Erica Saleh
Sara Schaeffer
David Slack
Lauren Ashley Smith
Meredith Stiehm
Patric M. Verrone

David A. Goodman, Ex-Officio
Marjorie David, Ex-Officio
Beau Willimon, Ex-Officio
Kathy McGee, Ex-Officio
Bob Schneider, Ex-Officio


Tomorrow: Part 3

Latest on WGAW 2020 MBA Negotiations Part 1

It’s contract renegotiation time!

Specifically, it’s that time when the Writers Guild of America sits down with the Association of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) and tries like hell to make our TV, film, and other electronic media writing lives happier, healthier, and more fulfilling.

In other words, we’re looking for ways to be more productive and creative and make more $$$.

This week we’ll be bringing you the full text of the latest missives from the Writers Guild of America negotiating committee on where we are on what probably are the three most important issues.

Here’s #One – raising minimum payment rates


Dear Members,

As you know, we usually lay out our bargaining agenda during membership meetings. Since many of those meetings had to be cancelled this year, we will give you an overview of our proposals to the AMPTP through a series of emails, starting with this one on minimums.

The MBA establishes minimums for writers’ initial compensation, as a means of maintaining our livelihoods and setting equitable standards for our industry. Although some of us earn more than the minimum, increasing minimums impacts all writers. For example, in television, pension and health fund contributions are usually paid up to 2 ½ times the applicable minimum. If the minimums increase, so do the contributions paid into the funds. As such, raising minimums is critical, both to individual writers and to the strength of our pension plan and health fund. Minimums are also the basis on which many of our residuals are calculated.

For these reasons, we are seeking across-the-board minimum increases, including weekly minimums for mini-rooms. We are also addressing a number of contract provisions which are out of date and undercut minimum standards. To that end, we are proposing:

LIMITING DISCOUNTS ON MINIMUMS: The MBA currently provides discounts on minimums in a number of areas that we think are unwarranted. We want to eliminate discounts for new writers altogether and increase the number of weeks of guaranteed work before studios can discount minimums for comedy-variety writers. The MBA also allows our employers to pay a reduced TV weekly minimum if they guarantee a certain number of working weeks. Yet, as more and more writers are being paid only the minimum when working in so-called “mini-rooms,” we need to increase the number of weeks that must be guaranteed before any discount is allowed.

FAIR SCRIPT FEES FOR FEATURES: We must also substantially raise minimum script fees for screenwriters and make sure that screenwriters working for streaming services receive the appropriate minimum compensation. Netflix, Amazon, and Apple released 50 feature films last year, and HBO Max recently announced that it will enter the feature film market. We must make sure that writers working for these services are paid theatrical minimums, whether or not their films are released in theaters.

RAISING MINIMUMS FOR TEAMS: Paying writing teams of two the same minimum salary as a single writer first appeared in the MBA at a time when a team could work enough to earn a comfortable living. But the growing prevalence of short order series has made working at minimum as a TV writing team financially unsustainable for many. We need to protect both screen and TV writers on teams by establishing a higher team minimum. Two or three individuals, even if they’re part of a team, contribute more than a single writer.

NEW STREAMING MINIMUMS: Some of us working for streaming services don’t earn minimum at all. For lower-budget streaming comedies and dramas, weekly compensation and script fees are completely negotiable, so we need to lower the budget breaks to ensure non-negotiable minimums for writers. Comedy-variety shows on streaming services – unlike on television – currently have no minimums either. This, too, must change.

Script fee and salary minimum increases have been part of every WGA MBA in history. But now more than ever, nothing can be taken for granted. Members need to understand why these proposals are essential. At a minimum.

In solidarity,

MBA Negotiating Committee

Michele Mulroney, Co-Chair
Shawn Ryan, Co-Chair
Betsy Thomas, Co-Chair

Liz Alper
Arash Amel
John August
Amy Berg
Ashley Nicole Black
Adam Brooks
Francesca Butler
Patti Carr
Robb Chavis
Meg DeLoatch
Travis Donnelly
Kate Erickson
Dante W. Harper
Eric Heisserer
Melissa London Hilfers
Elliott Kalan
Chris Keyser
Adele Lim
Peter Murrieta
Luvh Rakhe
Dailyn Rodriguez
Erica Saleh
Sara Schaeffer
David Slack
Lauren Ashley Smith
Meredith Stiehm
Patric M. Verrone

David A. Goodman, Ex-Officio
Marjorie David, Ex-Officio
Beau Willimon, Ex-Officio
Kathy McGee, Ex-Officio
Bob Schneider, Ex-Officio


Tomorrow: Part 2

Herbie J Pilato: Why some comedies stand the test of time and others do not

by Herbie J Pilato

In a recent discussion with a friend about the state of contemporary television comedies, he said something quite brilliant:

“Sitcoms are not variety show skits.”

Or as Buster Keaton once relayed to Lucille Ball, “You have to play comedy, dead straight. You have to believe that your ‘nose is on fire’” (which was a reference to the classic I Love Lucy episode, titled, “L.A. at Last,” in which Ball’s famed alter-ego Lucy Ricardo accidentally set her snout a flame).

In other words, for a sitcom to be funny, it has to be based in reality.

As another example, The Wonder Years, ABC’s classic sitcom from the mid-1990s, was based on reality (of the 1960s and early 1970s), opposed to that same network’s more recent sitcoms like The Goldbergs, which (set in the 1980s) thinks it’s The Wonder Years. But it’s not. Far from it, actually…mostly because The Goldbergs, and other manically-performed shows like it, lack charm…which The Wonder Years so perfectly imbued.

Read it all at medium.com


Writer/producer Herbie J Pilato is the host of the TV talk show THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, now streaming on Amazon Prime and the author of several pop-culture/media tie-in books. He has been part of TVWriter™ for over 20 years and is Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J HERE

Last Week’s Most Important Cord Cutting Developments 5/19/20

Cord Cutters News gives us the latest on the cord cutting front, including: Cable Companies Losing Users, Content Lineups for Peacock and HBO Max, Quibi’s Growing Pains, & More!



Cord Cutters Video Channel: https://twitter.com/CordCuttersNews
Cord Cutters Web Site: http://cordcuttersnews.com

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