by Howie Cockrill
In this article I’m going to touch on a few areas that are being affected or are affecting the WGA strike.
When network television viewership began to return after the 1988 WGA strike, it was an estimated 10% lighter than it had been prior to the strike – meaning that a noticeable chunk of the network audience was just gone.
Some say these people shifted to cable television, and other say they just stopped watching television – finding their entertainment in other areas.
This time around – it will be interesting to see where viewers go (especially young viewers) as the strike impacts quality television programming.
Some pundits feel that the lack of buzz-worthy television programming may send even more viewers between the ages of 12 and 28 online, where they are spending increasing amounts of time.
This could in turn increase the demand (and supply) for “professional amateur” user-generated online video, creating new viral stars overnight and upping the ante for the WGA and the AMPTP to reach an accord and figure out a way to monetize online programming.
SCREEN ACTORS GUILD (SAG)
The writers’ strike is quickly becoming a cautionary tale about how the alliance of the Writers Guild and the Screen Actors Guild can work together to shut down Hollywood.
WGA West president Patric Verrone and SAG president Alan Rosenberg have opted to ally their guilds and take a more hard-line stance on negotiations with the AMPTP.
Aside from a handful of actors joining the WGA picket lines, the most publicly glaring manifestation of the alliance was seen at the Golden Globes, which was essentially downgraded this year to a news crawl with audio commentary by Larry King.
If the strike is still in effect, the next public mele will likely happen at the Oscars, scheduled for February 24th to be hosted by “The Daily Show”s Jon Stewart.
(Interestingly, Stewart has his own bone to pick with the WGA, which refused to give his show a waiver to continue to air episodes written by Stewart himself, even after it gave Jay Leno the same waiver.)
The Oscars could put the SAG-WGA alliance to the test, as top actors will be forced to sit out the media blitz and glitz in support of the writers.
DIRECTORS GUILD OF AMERICA (DGA)
Another party involved in this quagmire is the Director’s Guild of America.
The DGA’s basic agreement with the AMPTP is scheduled to expire this coming June, and the parties have been deep in negotiations for the past few weeks.
On January 17, 2008, the DGA and the AMPTP came to a tentative agreement.
Now that the AMPTP has put out this fire, it could suck oxygen out of the WGA blaze and put pressure on that guild to reach a settlement with the studios.
However, the Screen Actors Guild said on January 22, 2008, not to “anoint” the DGA deal as the panacea for the industry. INSERT LINK
Major deal points in the DGA / AMPTP agreement include:
1. Wage Increases
Wage increase for network prime time drama and soap operas increases by 3% for each contract year, and 3.5% for all other categories.
2. Residual Increases
Directors get a 3% residuals increase for network prime time shows for each contract year, and 3.5% residuals increase for all other categories.
3. New Media
The DGA / AMPTP Basic Agreement has jurisdiction over:
- all new media content that is derivative of product already covered under current contracts.
- all “internet first” original content above $15,000/minute, $300,000/program or $500,000/series – whichever is lowest.
Original content below this threshold will be covered when a DGA member is employed in the production.
NewTeeVee has a couple of interesting, on-point articles here.
The first point they make is that studios sometimes pay $15,000 per minute for programming, while the average pro-am webisode costs about $1,000 per minute.
Because there are no minimums mentioned, this could have the impact of excluding much internet-first content from the Basic Agreement’s jurisdiction.
Second, what is the definition of “program” or “series” online, especially if content can be broken down into small chunks for online consumption?
4. Paid Downloads
If fewer than 100,000 units of television programming are downloaded, AMPTP studios will pay the current .3% of applicable net revenue.
If worldwide gross receipts on those first 100,000 top $1 million, the rate will be increased to .36%
If more than 100,000 units of television programming are downloaded, the rate jumps to .7%
If fewer than 50,000 units are sold, AMPTP studios will pay the current .3% of applicable net revenue.
If worldwide gross receipts on those first 50,00 top $1 million, the rate will be increased to .36%.
If more than 50,000 feature film units are downloaded, the rate jumps to .65%.
Download rates will be based on distributor’s gross, instead of producer’s gross.
5. Ad-Supported Streaming
There will be a 17-day window (24-day window for series in their first season) in which the studios can use the streamed content promotionally.
After that, for each 26-week period following the window (within the first year after initial broadcast), the studios will pay 3% of the residual base (approximately $600 for prime time 1 hour dramas).
After the first year, the studios will pay 2% of the distributor’s gross for ad-supported streaming.