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In memory of Karl Davis, founder of this board, who made his final journey 12th June 2007

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Topic Review

[*] posted on 21-12-2007 at 09:17
Jay Leno's Tonight Show, Late Night with Conan O'Brian, and the Jimmy Kimmel Show are all going to return on January 2 with new shows, without the striking writers. Leno, in particular, was very supportive of the writers, bringing them food on the picket lines. He's been told the rest of the Tonight Show staff, who are not striking, must either come to work or be fired. Ratings had plummeted with rerun shows.

David Letterman is reportedly trying to work out a deal by which his writers would be allowed to work. A pledge to pay them according to whatever agreement is eventually reached, retroactively, perhaps?

I suspect the Guild will not allow a special deal. I read that they were insisting on including something in the contract which would prohibit replacing their shows with non-writer shows (e.g. reality shows), which would mean that the networks would have nothing to show but reruns if there were to be another writers' strike at a future date.

I would think that the writers must be suffering great hardship by now--losing homes, having cars repossessed, great financial stress on marriages. I would think many of the spouses of people accustomed to making $200,000 plus per year do not have to work outside the home, in which case the income would go down to nothing.

[*] posted on 11-12-2007 at 18:50
I believe fair payment for DVDs and for some income from internet use is a good reason to strike.

I do wish the two sides would come to some agreement, quickly. I saw a news report that said the loss to the economy in Los Angeles is $21,000,000 per day. There are many, many workers in film and TV who are being hurt during the strike--people who do makeup, people who sew costumes, cameramen, lighting techs, sound men, etc. Also, there are restaurants and sandwich shops whose customers are the studio workers.

I'd like to see the producers make a generous enough offer that would be fair to the writers, and I'd like to see the writers take it. Or, I'd like to see the writers propose a fair offer that the producers could live with, and then see the producers take it. What I'd hate to see is for both sides to dig in so deeply that more and more homes are lost, families break up over financial stress, etc.

[*] posted on 11-12-2007 at 17:57
Except you don't seem to think the Writers have a valid reason for striking and I do.


[*] posted on 10-12-2007 at 20:52
I was thinking that production of DVDs that don't do well could hurt the producers (if they had already paid the writers for everything they'd made), which would discourage the producers from making them large-scale. However, that could be solved by starting small and making additional "printings" as needed.

I think we are essentially in agreement, Redwolf.:D

[*] posted on 10-12-2007 at 20:02
Originally posted by scholar
I think the best resolution might be a percentage of the revenue, because no one knows for sure where the revenues will be in a few years. Eventually, I think few people will watch at the convenience of the broadcast, and many will view the streamcasts at their own convenience. I also think a percentage of revenue formula would not work, because the writers would expect the producers to use accounting methods that would look as if they were losing money every time the show was shown.:(

Hollywood is infamous in their shady accounting practices. Hence the many lawsuits by writers, actors and producers of movie studios for payment owed on a percentage deal of hit movies that "lost money" according to the books of the studio.

Producers are paid a certain amount from the studios or networks (depending on who "owns" the show) and this is divided between everyone who works on the show from the stars to the person who makes the sandwiches on the catering table.

That is why the writers are going after the producers, for the most part, in this strike. It is THEY who hold the purse strings.


[*] posted on 10-12-2007 at 19:42
You are correct, I have not viewed internet episodes. And, as I said above, I agree that the writers should be fairly paid. My main point is, they may be demanding an unrealistically high price for the DVD and streaming video components.

Of course, on the other side, the producers would certainly like to pay the least they can, under-valuing the contribution of the writers.

I think the best resolution might be a percentage of the revenue, because no one knows for sure where the revenues will be in a few years. Eventually, I think few people will watch at the convenience of the broadcast, and many will view the streamcasts at their own convenience. I also think a percentage of revenue formula would not work, because the writers would expect the producers to use accounting methods that would look as if they were losing money every time the show was shown.:(

[*] posted on 10-12-2007 at 19:32
And on the issue of DVD sales, let me offer something that might make the whole thing clearer to you.

The writers are not asking to be paid on each copy sold. They are asking for an increased payment for the number copies pressed.

It's like if I license an image to be used in a national magazine. The rate I charge is based on the currculation figures of the magazine, NOT how many copies are actually sold of that issue.

When the last writer's contract was set, the practice of selling an entire season of a show on DVD was not a common practice. Now it is.

Are the writer's wrong in wanting to see an increase in income for this new use of their work? I know in the case of my image I license to a magazine, I would not give away the right to use the image in a "best of the Year" collection of that magazine without additional compensation.


[*] posted on 10-12-2007 at 19:26
Because of your slow connection, I'd wager you have never watched an episode of a television show on the Internet.

I have.

There are still commercials and banner ads to watch during breaks like on regular television.

And have you checked the profits being made by television networks lately? They are not declining.

As someone who professes to be an intellectual, I would have thought you would be more supportive of those who make their living through the exercise of their intellectual creativity.

The writers are only asking for a fairer share of the pie to compensate for the increased use by the networks.

It's only fair.


[*] posted on 10-12-2007 at 19:18
Redwolf, I don't agree that, if I am getting paid an hourly wage, I should be angry if the boss figures out a way to make more profit. If I'm pushing the buttons, turning the dials, and watching the gauges on a machine, it doesn't make any difference to me whether the machine is producing 500 gallons per batch or 10,000 gallons per batch--I'm putting in the same work, either way.

I do appreciate that the royalties and residuals set-up is different. It makes sense that the writers be paid fairly for DVDs and internet streaming--but, if the writers want $20,000, and the producers offered $250, there is certainly some disagreement as to the value of the internet streaming. The guy in the interview said the $20,000 figure was what the writers would get from a rerun of the same program. But, will the networks make as much from internet streaming as they do from all the commercials they show during a broadcast? (I suspect not, but I don't have any figures.) I think there are some other dynamics. People with a sufficiently good system and software to capture the stream will be able to save the video--thus killing future DVD sales. If everyone who wishes can view the streaming video for several weeks after the episode is shown on TV, it may drastically diminish the viewers for a rerun of the episode on broadcast TV. If so, advertisers won't be willing to support repeats at first-show prices. That would lessen the broadcast income--and the writers haven't said they are willing to accept less for residuals on a rerun, even if the commercial value of the rerun goes down..

It may be that the commercial value of everything on TV will go down, because the internet is making so much available for free. Advertisers won't be willing to pay as much for a smaller and smaller viewership. But, the writers want as much as they previously got for the first year of a show. And, they get automatic increases. As the cost of hotels and air fares go up, the producers cover those costs, so the pay goes up to cover them.

I have the impression that, as viewership drops, the writers want to be paid as much as in the old contract (even though the ad revenue will be less, adjusted for inflation), plus additional money for DVD and internet streaming. Certainly they should get a fair amount for them, but is it fair for them to get paid as much for smaller viewership as they used to when more people spent more time watching TV?

[*] posted on 10-12-2007 at 18:42
It's a matter of PRINCIPAL here.

The producers, networks etc. are making extra revenue from these new revenue streams (Internet, streaming video, DVDs) while the creators of said content, i.e. the writers, are not getting a share.

And while you may put their their efforts down with such comments as:

It isn't as if television writing is so superbly brilliant that one can hardly bear to miss any episode of anything.

The fact of the matter is it is their livelihood. They should be paid fairly for all uses of their efforts.

Put it another way. Suppose you worked for someone for $X an hour. Your employer makes $X amount of profit based on that effort.

Now suppose your employer figured out a way to double or triple his profit and didn't give you a raise. You'd be honked, wouldn't you?


[*] posted on 9-12-2007 at 22:44
Internet (mostly streaming video) and DVDs are the two main points. You can see, between $250 for a year of streaming video available, and $20,000, that the two sides are not at all close together.

The DVD payments are a headache to figure out. If the DVDs are produced and the writers are paid an amount per DVD, and then the DVDs don't sell at the retail outlet, what then? But, how would the producer of the DVDs keep track of the sales, at all the many outlets? What about the DVDs that get marked down to half price, do the writers get only half of the expected residual? What if the DVDs are given away, free, with the purchase of a DVD player or HD TV?

[*] posted on 9-12-2007 at 22:24
It's not so much their actual normal earnings though is it? I read it was about the failure of the companies to pay them fairly for internet and international sales.

I watch tv quite seldom so it's not affecting me at all at the moment. It would take me quite some time to get through even the DVDs that lie unopened on my DVD shelf.

As to habits, perhaps we should all get more of a real life and start pointing our furniture towards somewhere other than the tv.

[*] posted on 9-12-2007 at 21:00
I wonder if the writers are aware of how much they will hurt the industry. When no new scripted shows are available, how many people will get out of the habit of watching TV? If someone joins a volleyball group, a bowling league, starts playing cards with neighbors, etc., they may not return to their living room chairs when the strike does end.

Do you favor either side? I understand Brits won't write for American projects during the strike, but writers from other countries (Germany, for example) could do so without violating their own union rules. If I hear American dialogue with "Make the door shut" instead of "Shut the door," I'll know whence it came.

Would you be satisfied with earnings of $230,000 per year, or would you press for more? Should they be willing to accept less deluxe travel or hotels? Aren't good TV writers in shorter supply than good actors?

[*] posted on 9-12-2007 at 20:52
I heard a discussion of this with someone involved in the situation. He said that, when the producers suggested a $250 payment for streaming video use, someone from the writers' side suggested $20,000 instead.:o

He asked them, if the writers wanted the producers to grant them that, what would they give up to get it? They didn't have any ideas. He said, "The old contract said that you had to be flown in first-class if you were needed to write something. A lot of other people in the business don't always travel first class. For the $20,000 per streaming video, would you be willing to accept less than a paid, first-class ticket?" They said no.

Another possibility would be less expensive hotel accomodations. The old contract required that writers be put up in five-star hotels. Would they be willing to stay in a four-star hotel, if they got $20,000 per streaming video? No, they were unwilling to stay in less than a five-star hotel at the expense of the project--and they wanted $20,000 for each item available through internet streaming.

If the writers are negotiating that tough, I have less sympathy for them. It isn't as if television writing is so superbly brilliant that one can hardly bear to miss any episode of anything.smokin: