Fascinating article dealing with TV and TV writing from the perspective of – business, people! With some important history thrown in for a little thing that’s often missing in these kinds of discussions – context:
Business Musings: Learning, The Future, and CES (Contracts/Negotiations)
by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
In November, 2007, the members of the Writers Guild of America (East & West) walked off the job as part of a contract negotiation with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. (AMPTP) That strike was consequential for a variety of reasons.
But what caught me at the time, and catches me now, was how prescient that strike was.
The writers walked off because, at the time, they got almost no money from any properties that they wrote which showed up on the internet or in the (baby) streaming platforms. What was then called “new media” did not have profit participation for the writers. And writers knew—or perhaps the heads of the WGA knew—that the future wasn’t appointment television or even network television.
The future lived online.
I watched that strike with great interest. I figured the writers would eventually lose. But they didn’t. They stayed off the job until mid-February of 2008, and managed, as The Harvard Law Record explained at the time, to get compensation:
… for new media in most circumstances. Writers will receive 1.2% of distributor’s gross receipts for download “rentals” (where the consumer pays for time-limited access to media) and 0.65%-0.7% of receipts for download purchases. Similarly, writers will receive 2% of distributor’s gross receipts for ad-supported streaming of television programs and feature films, but only after a 17-day streaming window in which no residuals must be paid.
The strike was so traumatic to the industry that when the guild threatened to strike again in 2017, AMPTP came to the table for a last minute deal that included:
… gains on the issue of short seasons in television, winning a definition (which has never before existed in our MBA) of 2.4 weeks of work for each episodic fee. Any work beyond that span will now require additional payment for hundreds of writer-producers….a 15% increase in Pay TV residuals, roughly $15 million in increases in High-Budget SVOD (Subscription Video On Demand) residuals, and, for the first time ever, residuals for comedy-variety writers in Pay TV.
Why am I telling you all of this in a blog post for fiction writers that is ostensibly about the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show? Because one of the reasons I went to CES was to see the future of content in the modern era.
My brain keeps playing with the prescience of that first strike. The big fight was over DVD revenues, which isn’t as important as it once was. But the new media stuff was visionary. A lot of people in the WGA saw that the new media was the wave of the future, and they knew that if screenwriters did not get portions of the revenue in that negotiation, then screenwriters would be harmed tremendously in the future….