Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Writers Strike

I called my friends Chris and Cher a little while ago to say hello and see what they were doing. Cher laughs and says, "We are laying in bed watching Good Times." In the background, I heard Chris say, "You know there's a writers strike when you're laying in bed at 8:30 watching Good Times!"

Sadly, this is the current state of television.

As most everyone knows, the Writers Guild of America has been on strike since early November. Why? Because they have been working since 1988 under the same contract and, let's face it, times have changed. Particularly how entertainment it is presented and how we consume it.

Some basic facts: The writer of a TV show or movie receives a residual payment each time that show or movie is shown on television. The writer also gets a residual payment each time that show or movie is sold via home video. Now I am not a writer, so I don't know how much they make in residuals when the show or movie plays on TV. What I do know is this:

The last writers strike was back in 1988. At the time, the "big thing" was home video - as in VHS cassettes. Under that contract (which is the also the current contract), the writers received 3/10 of one percent for every dollar made from home video sales. That's 3/10 of a penny. Now let's fast-forward to 2008. VHS is virtually dead. Now we have DVD, which is easier and cheaper to produce. But we also have this thing called the Internet where you can download a show or movie and watch it on your computer.

Throughout 2007, there were rumblings that the writers were a little upset that they only get 3/10 of one percent from home video sales. So they decided that when their contract ran out, they would ask for a pay raise. How much? 6/10 of one percent. That's 6/10 of a penny for those of you with your calculators out. That would leave the studio with 99.4% to do with what they wish.

But what about the Internet? How much do the writers get paid when I go to iTunes and download a TV show or movie? Or how 'bout when I go to and watch an episode of LOST or Dirty Sexy Money and have to sit through the same commercial five times?

Are you still with me?


Well, how much are the writers asking for?

2.5% of the revenues made from Internet downloads and streaming.

That would leave the studios with 97.5% to do with what they wish.

So why are the writers on strike? Because the studios can't seem to make on 97.5%.

Oh, a little side note: The writers have since backed down from their demand 6/10 of a percent of home video revenue and are willing to stay at 3/10 of a percent, if the studios will pay them 2.5% of Internet revenues.

The writers are still on strike.

The studios are still not paying up.

So what does all this mean for TV viewers? Rather than quality shows like LOST, Heroes, The Office, etc., we will have to endure brain draining reality shows like American Gladiators, The Apprentice, Big Brother and The Bachelor.

In case you haven't noticed, I stand firmly with the writers. I say pound the pavement until a fair deal is reached that is beneficial for the writers and studios alike. Then we can all find out what happens with Pam and Jim, who shot Nathan Petrelli, and learn the fates of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815.

Until then, get ready for the season premier of "Who Wants to Marry My Ugly Drunk Uncle?"

Oh well, I still have Guitar Hero...


Kelly Thorne said...

Oh Markus...anything else you need to say about the Writers Strike?!?!

Mark said...

No that about covers it!