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The WGA strike

The WGA strike has really captivated me, for some reason. Here are a bunch of links to interesting strike-related material.

Lost creator Damon Lindelof writes about the strike on the New York Times op-ed page:

The motivation for this drastic action — and a strike is drastic, a fact I grow more aware of every passing day — is the guild’s desire for a portion of revenues derived from the Internet. This is nothing new: for more than 50 years, writers have been entitled to a small cut of the studios’ profits from the reuse of our shows or movies; whenever something we created ends up in syndication or is sold on DVD, we receive royalties. But the studios refuse to apply the same rules to the Internet.

My show, “Lost,” has been streamed hundreds of millions of times since it was made available on ABC’s Web site. The downloads require the viewer to first watch an advertisement, from which the network obviously generates some income. The writers of the episodes get nothing. We’re also a hit on iTunes (where shows are sold for $1.99 each). Again, we get nothing.

Here’s Lindelof the implications of the strike dragging on:

If this strike lasts longer than three months, an entire season of television will end this December. No dramas. No comedies. No “Daily Show.” The strike will also prevent any pilots from being shot in the spring, so even if the strike is settled by then, you won’t see any new shows until the following January. As in 2009. Both the guild and the studios we are negotiating with do agree on one thing: this situation would be brutal.

From the other side, here’s former studio head Michael Eisner explaining why the strike is a bad idea:

No. They’re way early. This is a very foolish strike. The amount of economic upside over the length of the contract coming up is not worth giving up the present benefit of producing even the 20-plus shows that are on, say, ABC. It’s shortsighted; it’s not there yet. People like myself are trying to figure it out and, basically, create an industry. The only people that are playing in this are the established media companies that feel they have to, cause they don’t want to be left behind; the young, up-and-coming entrepreneurs who are doing it because this is their way in; and then, people who can afford to dabble in it because it’s “interesting.” It’s a completely misguided strike. And I’m pushing way up ahead. I did “Prom Queen,” I’m doing one called “The All-for-Nots” [a documentary-styled comedy that follows indie- rock bands on tour]. I’m shooting a third one that we’re selling the rights in Japan and dubbing it for France. But you know, at the end of the day, the amount of economic profit that we could all make together could maybe get us through a day at Starbucks. It’s just not worth it.

Marc Andreessen suggests that the strike could hasten the remaking of Hollywood in the Silicon Valley’s image, where shows are produced not by studios but by startups owned and run by the talent, rather than by the corporation that control the distribution.

Alex Tabarrok explains why Hollywood unions are powerful. They’re powerful because studios want to work with stars, and the stars are willing to strike. Tabarrok seems to hate that, but I think it’s pretty amazing. The big names in Hollywood could easily cut great deals from themselves without the support of their union. They don’t need to fight for residuals or other compensation. The fact that they are willing to work with their union to get a better deal for everyone really is pretty remarkable, and quite noble, I think.

Oh, and if you’re wondering when your favorite show is going to run out of new episodes, Watchers Watch has a helpful table.

1 Comment

  1. Aside from loss of The Daily Show (which I can’t see anyhow because it’s on cable), the prospect of TV minus new sitcoms and dramas is more welcome than some might think, especially in an election year. I’d be all for it except that the financial consequences would be disastrous for the writers and their families.

    One other possible result of a prolonged strike would be an upward draft of non-union writers from the blogosphere into the industry. Some of those who blog about the strike may end up competing with the people they’re supporting.

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