The WGA strike goes on and on with no early end in sight, as everyone sticks to their trenches. Patrick Goldstein at the LA Times has the very gloomy prognosis:

DESPITE what they say about global warming, it’s going to be a long, cold winter for the writers of Hollywood. The studios pretty much made it official Friday, when they walked away from the negotiating table after giving the Writers Guild an abrupt “put up or shut up” ultimatum. Considering that the studios were asking the writers to give up much of their core Internet residuals proposal, there was little left to negotiate. The studios’ message was obvious: They’re going to play hardball.

Believing they have comparatively little to lose by letting the strike drag on, the studios will try to weaken the guild by letting writers spend Christmas out of work while studio operatives sow seeds of discord among the membership, hoping to persuade some high-profile writers to cross the line and go back to work.

The TV industry itself is beginning to mutate, says Variety

As the writers strike hits the six-week mark on Monday, the ramifications for the TV biz are growing by the hour. Starting next week, the force majeure ax may begin to fall on various talent deals at the major studios. Industry insiders say some of the nonwriting producer deals and nonwriting “pod” deals that have proliferated during the past decade could be vulnerable, particularly for those with a mixed track record of delivering successes to their studio partners.

This is grim stuff indeed. If the 3rd season of THE VENTURE BROTHERS weren’t already in the can, we’d have almost nothing to look forward to. A few episodes of LOST will debut in February as planned, but it won’t be the 16-episode season everyone had been counting on.

Emmet Furey at CBR hits the Hollywood picket lines with a a very lengthy piece (well, everyone has a lot of free time) including comments from Joss Whedon and Ben Edlund (once of The Tick, and now of Supernatural.

To all appearances, the AMPTP’s recent actions have been carefully orchestrated to demoralize and divide the WGA membership. In a particularly telling move, the AMPTP recently retained a PR firm called Fabiani and Lehane, also known as “the Masters of Disaster.” And the AMPTP’s demoralizing tactics come as no surprise to Joss Whedon. “This is how you run a strike when you’re the bad guy,” Whedon said. “You bring them up, then you bring them down. You get their hopes up, and you say you made a good-faith offer. Their good-faith offer was nothing, it was a good-faith insult. I believe that’s what they do so they can send us to Christmas in fear for our jobs and in many cases for people’s futures and for their homes. And that’s what they want to do, they want to create fear. And they can create fear, but they can’t create the divisiveness that they’re counting on, it’s not going to happen.

Our guess? The writer’s won’t quit. They lasted nearly six months last time, and they’ll last six months this time.


  1. Does anyone else feel like the coverage of the strike has been completely one-sided so far? I dunno, but I’m a fan of the “every story has two sides” mantra.

  2. Frankly, the death-spiral stance of both sides is providing me with endless amusement. As if TV content was an driving issue to any functional adult member of society. If anything, we’ll all realize how much time we have to do other things, other than sit around watching and endlessly rehashing the electronic high school popularity contest.

  3. I support the writer’s option to strike for what they want but don’t think the characterization of internet residuals (or any residuals) as something they deserve is accurate.

    Damon Lindelof (of LOST) said, “If money is made off of my product through the Internet, then I am entitled to a small piece.” Certainly it would be both good and nice for him to get money for continued profits made from something to which he partially contributed, but entitlement?

    The fact of the matter is: sometimes, you’re just payed to do a job. Once the job is done, it’s not your business what happens to your work. I’ve done work for people and seen that work end up not being used at all. I’ve seen other things help net an employer a pretty penny. In either case though, my involvement and entitlement ended the moment my contractual obligation was fulfilled. I.e., the moment I finished the job.

    I understand that the writers would like their contracts to include a nice residual plan – and that’s fine, if they can get it – but every time they say they are entitled or deserve this nice package, I just want to poke them. Not hard. Just enough to help them realize they’re being dumb.

    So you’d get less pro-WGA bias from me, but I don’t offer coverage ^_^ lo siento.

  4. What strikes me (no pun intended) is that they are choosing to stop earning money in the present for money they *might* be able to earn in the future. In the process, they are taking a lot of other hardworking, non-union people with them. There are people without a job right now that have absolutely nothing to do with this strike or future YouTube residuals.

    It’s got to suck not having a paycheck around the holidays.

    Nobody knows if streaming content on the Internet is a revenue generating endeavor. My guess is that it won’t be. Bandwidth costs a lot of money even when it’s being used to stream old episodes of King of Queens.

    The writers believe that in the future, the Internet and broadcast TV will be the same thing. OK. It’s fun to think about what the future may hold, but I’m still waiting on my hover car and jet pack.

  5. >>>Bandwidth costs a lot of money even when it’s being used to stream old episodes of King of Queens.

    A lot of money? Bandwidth costs are coming down constantly.

    >>>The writers believe that in the future, the Internet and broadcast TV will be the same thing. OK. It’s fun to think about what the future may hold, but I’m still waiting on my hover car and jet pack.

    The internet and broadcast TV are ALREADY the same thing. All the broadcast nets are allowing their show to be viewed online in various configurations. Have you heard of this little thing called the iPhone?

    Where do you live, Rick, Kazakhstan?

  6. No reason to be snarky. The big difference between broadcast TV and the Internet is that broadcast TV currently makes money. Streaming video currently doesn’t. Maybe it will in the future. Maybe it wont. The point is they are striking for future money that may or may not even be there.

  7. If you see an ad or commercial on the webpage that the video is being streamed on…someone paid money to put that ad there.

  8. Rick, bandwidth is not that expensive!

    The content-delivery business may be a $500 million a year business–twice the value of Internet video advertising and users fees–and is growing 25% per year, IDC estimates.

    $500 million a year? That’s only 2 1/2 GOLDEN COMPASSES.

    In that same quote it notes that that’s still twice the revenue, but this model is growing by leaps and bounds. In a few years, it will be a major, major source of revenue.

    The writer’s went on strike the last time because they were told that “home video was experimental” and it might not ever be profitable.

    Fool me once.

  9. There either IS money or there ISN’T money on the web. The corporations can’t have it both ways. If there IS money, the Writers (and in a few months, Actors and Directors) want a small percentage of the profits. If there are no profits, there are no royalties.

  10. I think the whole “experimental” excuse is hoo-haw. If the internet isn’t making money, then the writers percentage of that will be zero dollars. If it does make money then they’ll make whatever percentage they make.

    Distilled, the issue seems as simple as: The writers want a raise and their employers don’t want to give them a raise. The writers think they are worth the raise and the employers don’t.

    Personally, I think some writers are worth it but most aren’t. But that’s the problem with guilds and unions. The excellent are dragged down by the mediocre, the weak benefit from the excellent, and the mediocre are still just mediocre.

  11. What ever it is, studios (and their executives) make millions of dollars off the hard work of the writers. I’m not a writer by any stretch however, I think it’s disgusting and revolting that the studios refuse to share.

    What, is it THAT terrible if one of the studio executives have to share some of their six and seven figure dollars (not counting bonuses of course). Ok, so you may a few million less.

    Their greed is making people sick. Get off your high horse, studio executives.

    You’re still much higher than the rest of the working class.

  12. It doesn’t matter who’s a “good writer” and who’s a “bad writer” Dane. Everyone deserves to profit from their work. There’s no way you can realistically set up a system where good writers get paid for internet revenue while bad writers don’t, and guilds have nothing to do with it. If the “excellent are dragged down by the mediocre” among writers then its the public’s fault for choosing to watch crap, not your fear of organized labor. I think Lost is a terrible show, but that doesn’t mean I want to punish the writers for it. You’re playing right into the corporations’ hands when you think like that.

    And its not really a raise either because they’re not asking for anything new. What they’re saying is that an entire episode broadcast over the internet is the same as an entire episode broadcast on tv, and that they should be compensated accordingly. They’re not even asking to be compensated much.

  13. I’m with the writers in that I think they deserve a good and fair deal but I still don’t agree with a strike (sports, writers, labor, whatever). Never understood ’em. I work the agreements I make. If I don’t like it, I find a new job.

  14. Thats the thing though michael. What if the corporation isn’t honoring the agreement? What if new technology or issues arise and you and the company disagree on how it fits into your agreement? What if you can’t “find a new job” because its an industry-wide problem?

  15. Heidi, the article you linked to only says what revenue Internet-delivered content *may* generate in the future. That’s the whole point. It may or it may not. Nobody really knows. As far as the cost of the Golden Compass is concerned, so far it looks like the film will only end up losing money, not making money.

    Susie, they aren’t striking for a bigger percentage of the profits. They receive their residual whether a movie or TV show makes a profit or not. They want a percentage of the Internet generated ad revenue before even any of the costs associated with streaming it is paid. And remember that residuals and royalties are different. Residuals are delayed payments for work done. Royalties are paid to the actual owner of the content every time it is used or aired. The writers don’t own the shows or movies they write for.

  16. Rick, not trying to be snarky, but your understanding of the issues here is nebulous at best.

    Yes, GOLDEN COMPASS is a big flopperoo. That’s why I used it as an example.

    Are you familiar with the term “Hollywood accounting”? Most studios can prove GONE WITH THE WIND is a money loser over the years if they try hard enough. Dollar one participation is the only real guarantee of any back end.

    WGA members are well compensated up front, it is true, but are you saying that NO ONE — actors, directors, writers — should receive money for something continues to make millions for the studio?

    Bob Denver and Alan Hale, to name just one example, didn’t get residuals for the countless showings of GILLIGAN’S ISLAND. They — and the writers who came up with their banter and catch phrases — never saw a dime from the countless reshowings of Little Buddy getting bonked with a coconut.

    The internet may not be profitable now, but WHY should a writer get 0 percent of an iTunes download, to use a concrete example, when he r she gets a percentage of other paid uses?

  17. You’re right Rick, I used the wrong word. They’re all striking for residuals.

    Bandwidth costs are nothing. If it cost anything, nobody would be hosting videos for free. This is why the internet and mobile delivery is such a sticking point. New delivery systems have the potential to make an enormous amount of money. Especially when costs are already covered in broadcast television and there are no other broadcast licenses to pay for.

    Advertisers are fleeing broadcast for internet spending.

    As long as the internet remains largely unregulated there will be a continuous move from broadcast to the internet.

  18. Joffe, you say that “there’s no way you can realistically set up a system where good writers get paid for internet revenue while bad writers don’t.” Respectfully, I don’t see why this should be the case. It happens in my industry and others all the time.

    I’m an artist and I work in web and graphics. The people in my industry who truly rock command more money and nicer contracts. The workaday graphics slave doesn’t have as much talent and so doesn’t have as much command. This is how it works in a lot of industries. And it makes sense. If a designer doesn’t like the offer, he either negotiates or doesn’t take it.

    As to whether internet broadcast should be counted similarly to television broadcast, I don’t know. I think that if it can be shown that their current contract obliges them residuals from netcasting, then okay, they should get their due. But if not, then renegotiation is necessary (which seems like the case here), and if the employer doesn’t care to renegotiate then that’s unfortunate but it isn’t the case that such residuals are the entitlement of the employee.

    I don’t make extra money on my designs no matter how much traffic crosses them. A McDonald’s employing isn’t entitled to extra cash depending on how many burgers he serves. It’d be nice if we were, but we aren’t – unless we negotiate it in into our contracts.

  19. Dane, its my bad. What you are saying is what I already said (or tried to anyways). If someone is good, then they will get more money from being hired more. But that happens naturally. What I meant was there’s no way to created an INSTITUTIONALIZED system where people are judged as being OBJECTIVELY BAD and therefore don’t get money for something they created. A system where someone says “no, I don’t think this is very good” after the fact and THEN decides they shouldn’t get internet revenue, which is what I thought you were suggesting for some reason.

  20. Heidi, you can say my understanding of the issues is nebulous, but I know that writers were always getting residuals from the sales on iTunes. They are currently get .3% of the gross for downloads where the customer pays for the download. That includes iTunes.

  21. Susie, bandwidth costs are not nothing. Unlike broadcast TV, the more people that watch something on the Internet, the more expensive it is. Look at what happened when Marvel made their online service available. The site was constantly going down because of high bandwidth use.

    Your are right. New delivery systems do have the potential to make an enormous amount of money. The keyword there is potential.

  22. I don’t see why people insist upon comparing different industries and pretending it makes perfect sense to run them both the exact same way. Writing isn’t Web Design isn’t Nursing isn’t Sanitaton isn’t Stock Trading. You do what you do and you get paid the way you get paid. This is how THEY get paid, and they DESERVE A RAISE. Yes, even the ones who write crap deserve a fair cut of the profits made from said crap.