Writers, Seeking Pay Change for the Streaming Era, Prepare to Strike

When Hollywood went on strike 16 years ago, the internet hadn’t changed the TV and movie business yet. Broadcast networks still drew huge numbers of viewers, and Cable his channel was still growing. His superhero craze began in movie studios, and DVD annual sales reached his $16 billion.

Since then, rapid changes in technology have turned Hollywood upside down in ways few could have imagined. Traditional TV supports our viewing life. With drama and comedy ticket sales sluggish, movie studios have retreated almost entirely to franchise spectacles. The DVD business is dead. Netflix ships his last little silver disc on September 29th.

It’s a streaming world now. The pandemic has accelerated the shift.

What hasn’t changed much? The formula studios use to pay TV and film producers is gearing up for another strike. “A writer’s compensation needs to evolve towards streaming his fast world,” said Rich Greenfield, the founder of research firm LightShed Partners.

Barring a last-minute solution with an unlikely studio, more than 11,000 union writers could head to the picket lines in Los Angeles and New York as early as Tuesday, and depending on how long it takes, Hollywood’s creative Writers Guild of America leaders called it an “existential” moment, saying that despite the proliferation of content in the streaming era, rewards have stagnated. claim. their handprints.

“Writers at all levels and in all genres, whether feature films or TV shows, are devalued and economically exploited by studios.”Roswell, New Mexicoand the Shondaland show “The Catch.”

“These studios make billions of dollars in profits and spend billions on content, content that is created with our blood, sweat and tears,” Tolli continued. rice field. “But sometimes he still has to worry about how he will pay the mortgage. How to support his family. To supplement his income, he considered Uber.”

Studio chiefs have largely remained silent in public, leaving communications to the Alliance of Film and Television Producers to negotiate on their behalf. In a statement, the organization said its goal was a “mutually beneficial deal” that “is only possible if the Guild is committed to turning its focus to serious negotiations” and that “reasonable We are looking for a compromise,” he said.

In person, many studio and streaming service executives have portrayed the writer as historic and out of touch. I can’t make a living as a TV writer? By what criteria? Business has changed. get used to it.

In some ways, a major strike in Hollywood is way behind. Since the 1940s, with a few exceptions, a strike has rocked the entertainment industry like clockwork every seven to eight years. This usually accompanies a rapidly changing business upheaval. The dawn of television. The rise of cable networks.

“These things have to happen every five years or so, ten years,” Clemenza, a weathered Corleone capo, said in one of Hollywood’s most famous productions, “The Godfather.” It describes the movie gangster families as “going to the mattress” with each other. “It helps get rid of bad blood.”

For generations, ever since the silent film era ended, Hollywood writers have complained about how studios treat them as second-class citizens. Their artistic contributions are undervalued (and undercompensated), especially compared to actors and directors.

The screenwriters who resigned most often (six times) among Hollywood workers were responsible for the entertainment industry’s latest strike in 2007. It was a time of economic instability. The Great Recession was underway. Apple has started selling an iPod that can play videos. Disney offered a service that he could download episodes of “Lost” for $2. Hulu was in the launch stage.

An existing contract between the studio and the Writers Guild of America expires at 12:01 a.m. Pacific time on Tuesday, setting a minimum weekly salary of $7,412 for certain television writers/producers. (Experienced writers’ agents can negotiate that. According to the Guild, one issue has to do with the number of weeks writers work in the streaming era.

Thanks to streaming, the network norm of 22, 24, or 26 episodes per season has all but disappeared. Most streaming series are 8-12 episodes long. As a result, the median writer and producer says he’s been working on the network show for nearly 40 weeks. Guild datawith only 24 weeks on the streaming show, it’s difficult to earn a steady paycheck.

Residuals are also undercut by streaming. Before streaming, writers could get a balance every time their shows were reissued — in syndication, international airing, and DVD. However, global streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon have truncated these distribution sectors.

Instead, the streaming service pays a flat balance. Writers say they have no way of knowing if these charges are fair. hide viewing dataThe guild leader has stated that the new contract should include a formula for paying the remaining money based on their opinion.

Guild leaders claim that it would cost a total of $600 million a year to provide everything the studio wanted. But both companies are under pressure from Wall Street to cut costs. And the interests of one group of entertainment workers will almost certainly have to extend to other groups as well. His contract with the Directors Guild of America and the Actors Guild, SAG-AFTRA, expires on June 30.

Hollywood companies simply can’t afford to give massive pay raises, they say. With $45 billion in debt, Disney recently laid off thousands of employees as part of a campaign to cut 7,000 jobs from him by the end of June. Disney+ is still unprofitable, but the company promises to change that by next year. Disney is Hollywood’s largest supplier of union-covered TV dramas and comedies (890 episodes in the 2021-22 season).

Warner Bros. Discovery, which has about $47 billion in debt, has already cut thousands of jobs as part of a $4 billion pullback. NBCUniversal is also tightening its belts to combat cable cord cutting and the nasty advertising market.

These companies are still highly profitable. But they haven’t delivered the steady earnings growth that Wall Street rewards.

Screenwriters enter these talks with a remarkable swagger. In 2019, when a film and TV writer fired an agent in a campaign citing a conflict of interest, many agency leaders thought the guild would eventually fall apart. That never happened.

For screenwriters, there’s also an inadvertent demand for a raise. exacerbated by rising inflationThe pandemic was shutting down Hollywood when the screenwriters last had a chance to negotiate a deal, so the two were, in Greenfield’s words, “essentially kicking off the can.” An agreement was reached quickly. In previous negotiating cycles, Leiter focused on beefing up generous health insurance plans.

Writers are also outraged by various messages from companies about their financial situation.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, who owns NBCUniversal, said in a letter to employees last week when the division’s chief executive was ousted, “NBCUniversal is in a very difficult operational and financial position. It’s doing well.

Ted Sarandos, co-CEO of Netflix, said: $50.3 million Netflix revealed last week that 2022 is up 32% from 2021.

“A lot of people still get very rich from Hollywood products, not the creators of that product,” said screenwriters such as “Get Smart,” “The War With Grandpa,” and the animated “Home.” said Matt Ember,

Bottom line: Things can get worse before they get better.

“Every industry is going through a course correction. rebel media, an entertainment production and financing company. “Perhaps this is an opportunity to adjust our model for the next phase of our entertainment business.”

“The question is how much pain do you have to endure to get there,” she continued.

John Cobrin contributed to the report.

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