The networks have been reluctant to acknowledge the size of their streaming businesses, partly because online video advertising has become a sticking point in pay negotiations with the writers, who have been on strike for almost a month.Disclaimer: The attached image has little to do with this story.
However, advertisers are flocking to web streaming. “Based on what we’re paying for spots across the four networks, we estimate this market to be worth more than $120m,” said Tracey Scheppach, senior vice-president and video innovation director for Starcom, a leading media buying agency.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
First they came for Ellen DeGeneres, and I said nothing. Then they came for the non-writing staff of The Office, and I said nothing. Now, they’ve come for me, and no one is left to stand up for my rights as a journalist.
Because of my lousy writer staff, which hasn’t turned in a good script since I moved to CBS (I mean, honestly, how many times must our show resort to the old “The President says we’ve turned a corner in Iraq” plot twist?), the DNC chose to cancel a televised debate I was to moderate on December 10th.
In 2004, the two of them won a Writers Guild Award in the commentary category for “Wall Street Scoundrels,” an episode of Now With Bill Moyers.
So, my analysis is that the strike rules do indeed prohibit blogging for struck-company-owned TV show blogs. It's odd to think that blog entries - unadorned text - constitute "programming." But so it goes in the crazy world where new technology collides with an abstruse, 600-page Guild agreement.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
LAT argues the latter:
But these are writers, aren't they? If they're going to protest, they should use the best weapon they've got: their pens. That instrument would seem to be an awful lot mightier than the picket sign -- which, as a symbol of solidarity in the 21st century, has begun to look positively quaint.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Ad Age characterized the letter:
[Compared to pre-strike] Dispatches from a war room.The AMPTP's unsigned letter said:
The lengthy ad copy in today's Los Angeles Times and New York Times reads as if composed in a Zen tea garden.
The AMPTP has offered to pay writers a percentage of the revenues the producer receives from licensing streamed content on the Internet. However, the Writers Guild is asking that writers get a percentage of what the Internet site owners receive in advertising revenues connected with the streaming content, even if producers are getting none of that money themselves.The WGAw has a point-for-point response, but the AMPTP raises an interesting point: should there be an ad rev share?
Simply put, what the Writers Guild is asking for has no precedent. No labor agreement in history has given writers, actors or directors a portion of advertising dollars. There is no way that this change can be deemed reasonable.
We believe common ground can be found once reasonable people take the time to understand the issues. We hope this letter can help move us all closer to that goal.
Companies like Google, Yahoo, soon YouTube, About.com, MetaCafe and many others offer rev shares of ad dollars to content creators and make lots of money. (Don't let the writers at Silicon Alley Insider scare you off.) Should the AMPTP offer an ad rev share just to keep the geeks in Silicon Valley from eating their lunch, even if not to appease the union?
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Photo by k4kafka
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Entry-level jobs for unionized TV writers start at $70,000 for a 6-month TV season. What does that translate to in the blog world?The math works out technically, though he left an "m" out of commission (Michael, you should write for TV, no one minds misspellings in scripts). But his comparison is quite incomplete.
Let's make some assumptions:
• You work by yourself, and you're just writing compelling stuff -- no audio, no video, and no other labor costs (we're going to assume you keep your WGA health insurance for the near future).
• You use a network like Federated Media to sell your banner ads. FM generally takes a 40% cut of each ad sold.
• You have a successful, good-looking site that advertisers want to be on, so they're willing to pay you an average of $6 for each 1,000 page views you generate - this is roughly what Nick Denton's Gawker network can command.
• You sell two ads per page at that $6 cpm.
That's $12 for each 1,000 page views, less a 40% comission. At that rate, you'd need to generate 9.75 million page views to match your TV salary.
Here's what Michael left out:
- TV writers, even great ones, often have to go long stretches without a gig as shows and seasons don't go on forever. Blogs don't have seasons.
- A blogger with 1.63 million pageviews per month as in his example would be worth a sizable amount of money to an acquirer, especially if its on a hot topic. At a miserable 3x revenue (what MediaBistro got), you'd be sitting on a $420,000 asset. You can sell a blog, but you can't sell a TV writing gig.
- Many bloggers with that audience size have discovered other types of revenue streams such as books, conferences and licensing their brand.
- If someone's a talented TV writer and has a network of talented creative folks, why wouldn't they leverage their success into video which commands much higher CPMs?
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Gawker expects nothing short of hilarity in print writing from TV and screen writers:
Now that they're on strike, it seems like screenwriters are busier and more productive than ever. But left to their own devices, it turns out that they are a distinctly unfunny bunch. Put a bunch of 'em in a room and eventually they'll write Six Feet Under, but in the end they're just monkeys—monkeys writing for the LA Times and New York mag and making their own blogs [link to yours truly] and getting all up on the HuffPo.Now, we've acknowledged the shortcomings of many writings of striking writers and have called for better. It's getting better.
We'd like to ask the Gawker writers to have faith. The WGA will support you when you protest for a less depressing office (photo top right).
On the other hand, the stage hands striking have not written a cute article for The New Yorker or helped Maureen Dowd make her column funny. But they've just shut Broadway down because they know how to run a picket line.
The solution is obvious: Merge the Writers Guild of America and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees to the International Alliance of American Guilds of Theatrical Stage Employees and Writers (IAAGTSEW). Let the writers do the PR for both strikes and let the stage hands do all the picketing.
Thanks to yayaempress for photo. I wouldn't cross that line!
Monday, November 12, 2007
Read that aloud: "C. de WOLFE"
(His last name, DeWolfe, doesn't have a space in it. It must have been added via Photoshop for emphasis.)
Do writers have much to fear from the likes of DeWolfe? Don't say paidContent didn't warn you.
The studios that the writers are striking against are comprised almost entirely of Jews (and, in the case of the few non-Jews left in Hollywood, Zionist atheist Jew-lackeys), And the writers are all homosexuals or the sort of tedious women who enjoy cavorting with homosexuals.Read the rest on Osama's blog (not to be confused with Obama, who also supports the writers, albeit for different reasons).
Ultimately, I decided that I hate the Jews more than the Gays, so I offer this advice to the striking writers:
Perhaps you should consider each strapping between 10 and 20 pounds of homemade pipe bombs to a vest beneath your clothing. Then, split up between public buses, pizza places, and nightclubs in the Los Angeles area, and arbitrarily blow yourselves up.
OUR DEMANDS: An end to the lying. Just kidding. We recognize that, without lying, Management would be unable to exhale and would thus perish.
A renunciation of droit du seigneur. As it stands, studio executives, from chairman down to associate producer, have the right to deflower us on our wedding night, or any other night or time of day of their choosing. We believe that this change can be written into our contracts without affecting a similar agreement they have with the Screen Actors Guild.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Writers were not able to figure out how to make Ellen join them on the picket line. But who needs SAGers anyhow? Curt Toumanian explains how he trained a squirrel to protest for the WGA:
Well it wasn't easy. First I had to print and make all these little signs and glue them (to the little sticks, not the squirrels). Anyhow, that wasn't so hard, it was getting these squirrels to agree to do this for non-union pay and no residuals. Now that was the hard part!
Here are some highlights from Dale's e-mail:
Our show was shut down and we were all laid off this week. I've been watching the news since the WGA strike was announced and I have yet to see any coverage dedicated to the effect that this strike will have on the below the line employees.A commenter going by "Fireboy" responds:
I respect the WGA's position. They probably do deserve a larger percentage of profit participation, but a lengthy strike will affect more than just the writers and studios. On my show we had 14 writers... All 102 of us are now out of work.
During the 1988 WGA strike many of my friends lost their homes, cars and even spouses.
Everyone should be paid their fair share, but does it have to be at the expense of the other 90% of the crewmembers. Nobody ever recoups from a strike, lost wages are just that, lost.
Commenter "Editdroid" responds:
As an Editor on an hour long drama who is about to be laid off, I take great exception to the tenor of Fireboy's posting. None of us below-the-liners are begrudging the writer's their due. We are however a bit peeved about the writer's attitudes towards those of us who stand to lose the most while gaining nothing in return. I've heard the writers like Fireboy say that they are on the front line fighting for us, but the truth of the matter is only writers,actors and directors benefit from residuals, the main contention of the strike. It's very easy for Fireboy to say that the studios are going to come after our benefits next, but the truth of the matter is that after this strike is settled what the studios are going to do is to try to take money away from those below the line to pay for the costs of the strike and for whatever gains the writers get. What I've not heard from any of the writers or showrunners is a simple " We're sorry you crew members are going to have to suffer during this strike, it's something that 's really important for us, and we'll have your backs when this is settled." So Fireboy it may make your feel good to say the writer's are fightiing for all of us but really it's just a cop out to assuage your guilt over the true hardships you are causing the many crewmembers who work hard to make your words come to life.
Photo by amishjim
SMITHERS ENTERS TO FIND MR. BURNS AT HIS DESK.
SMITHERS: You rang for me, sir?
BURNS: Smithers! What is that infernal racket outside?
SMITHERS: There’s a big rally. The writers are striking.
BURNS: Writers?! I have writers?
SMITHERS: Yes, sir. Remember you bought that network and studio so you’d get invited to David Geffen’s Passover Seder?
BURNS: I thought there’d be girls!
SMITHERS: I’m working on that Playboy Mansion invite but so far they’ll only let you go during the day.
BURNS: Drat! And now I’m stuck entertaining the worthless masses?
SMITHERS: If it’s any consolation, sir, no one is watching since you made Ann Coulter your nightly news anchor.
Read the rest at Ken's blog.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Of course Wikipedia already has extensive coverage of the WGA Strike (it's a writers strike, after all). What are the Wikipedians, the largest collection of unpaid writers ever, saying about the strike on the wiki discussion page?
Wikipedia Writer's Strike
Because we should be payed too. 220.127.116.11 18:13
Ten cents, please. :-P --Father Goose
With quality writing like that, I think we should settle quickly for whatever we can get. (-: DirectRevelation
Tar and feather the producers
Am I just being overly neutral here, or does the article seem to be a tad less than neutral here? We are hearing the point of view - in depth - fromthe writers, but not that from the producers. I am not suggesting that their arguments aren't valid, but this is supposed to be a neutral encyclopedia. perhaps a stab at neutrality might be something we should be working a bit harder at. - Arcayne
I think that is somewhat unrealistic if the strike draws on. 12,000 disgruntled writers have just effectively become unemployed. Unless movie executives suddenly find a lot of spare time, it's sort of unavoidable. Especially if you remember that the writers are, well, writers. Wait until the strike is long over, and the people lose interest. Then the real work can begin.--18.104.22.168
heh. Maybe it's because the neutral view is that the producers are wrong. Once the strike is "long over", as the above user says, we'll be able to see that all the more clearer. --22.214.171.124
The high today was supposedly in the mid-forties, but the temperature sign on the top of the CNN building ticked back and forth between 38 and 42 degrees for most of the day.
Which means, if I see one more post from an LA-based striker complaining about being chilly, and then posting pictures of themselves strolling around under palm trees while wearing t-shirts and shorts? I will be forced to throw a hissy-fit, or maybe bring a space-heater to tomorrow's picket.
Is it absurd to see writers picketing? Perhaps. We realize things could be worse. We could be lawyers, and this could be Pakistan, and then we'd have to get dressed up in those black suits and throw rocks. But picketing writers are less absurd than writers not getting a cent for their work.
We create something people value. It is our livelihood. We take it seriously. It's being threatened. And we're going to fight until we get what we need.
Normally I'd end with a joke, but sorry - I'm on strike.
Friday, November 9, 2007
Thursday, November 8, 2007
He's agreed to an interview with Writers Strike:
WS: What are your feelings on how the media has covered the strike?
KL: Considering the people the writers are striking against control the media I don't feel we're getting a fair shake. We're often portrayed as a union of millionaires and it just isn't so.
WS: What's the best strike chant you've heard?
KL: "We're the writers. The mighty mighty writers." Somehow that hasn't instilled the fear into the producers that we would have liked.
WS: A couple days of striking is fun. When does it start to hurt?
KL: The picketing? Mile eight. Seriously, I worry that being asked to do too much picketing is going to burn the membership out. We need to be judicious after the first week in just how often and for what length of time we plan these demonstrations.
WS: Which show stoppage has you the most upset?
KL: The shows that haven't stopped have me the most upset.
WS: Actors have shown overwhelming support for writers. Were you expecting that?
KL: Not to this extent. But let's wait. Let's see how many of the actors are still joining us on the line in a month when the novelty wears off and the camera crews have moved on to some bus plunge.
NewTeeVee: The producers negotiated for a discount on home video residuals because it was an unproven technology. Do you feel there’s a certain hubris that they’d go to that well again after so many years?
Carvell: It does take exceptionally large balls to do that — like the size that I’d imagine they’d have to be pushed around in a wheelbarrow — to try and make that exact same argument given that we’ve spent the last 20-odd years trying to sort of undo the damage that deal did.
He said to IGN regarding his negotiations to allow webisodes:
We got in this long, protracted thing and eventually they agreed to pay everybody involved. But then, as we got deeper into it, they said "But we're not going to put any credits on it. You're not going to be credited for this work. And we can use it later, in any fashion that we want." At which point I said "Well, then we're done and I'm not going to deliver the webisodes to you." And they came and they took them out of the editing room anyway -- which they have every right to do. They own the material -- But it was that experience that really showed me that that's what this is all about. If there's not an agreement with the studios about the internet, that specifically says "This is covered material, you have to pay us a formula - whatever that formula turns out to be - for use of the material and how it's all done," the studios will simply rape and pillage.
Marvin Kitman reminds us that while the WGA strike keeps Jon Setwart and Steven Colbert off the air, we need to look no further than the US Congress good material:
I know this may sound like a wild idea. But Will Rogers used to do it every night on the Broadway stage. All he had to do, he explained, was read in the papers what they did in Congress that day and he'd have the audience in stitches. Of course, he also did lariat tricks.
Anyone who's seen Team America remembers that Alec Baldwin is the president of the Film Actors Guild (F.A.G.), a more aggressive guild than the SAG. He's now penned a post for HuffPo titled It's the Studio's Fault.
He describes the technological changes facing the film and TV industry:
Cable TV and then satellite, VHS and then DVD and then DVR, and now MP3.
(Emphasis added by Writers Strike.)
When was the last time you choose to watch a movie or TV show using MP3 (a file format developed over a decade ago that doesn't support video, which incidentally predated the DVR)?
The Film Actors Guild needs to have an election.
As John Aboud, who is a strike captain for WGA, noted in a comment to my post last week on the strike, that even with all the money Hollywood has made, most writers are not well paid (although those at the tippy-top are copiously compensated).
“Median earnings of all members of the Writers Guild is only $5,000,” he wrote. “How can that be? About 48% of members do not earn any money from writing in a given year. Of those writers who do make some money, one quarter earn less than $37,700 a year.”
Still, he is entirely correct when he also added: “The distribution of entertainment over the Internet is not the future, it’s NOW. If the producers succeed in gutting our right to compensation for digital reuse and delivery, that is income that’s gone forever.”
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
If anyone knows about taking it up the backside from Jobs, it's Michael Eisner. Remember, he pretty much got canned from Disney for not being able to work with Jobso when he owned Pixar. But in all seriousness, how many videos do you watch on iTunes vs. through your web browser?
At the end of the day, Eisner's argument hinges on the industry's inability to make money on their online video. Or more specifically, on his inability to make money on online video. Vuguru, Eisner's own company, launched a serial mystery called Prom Queen that "didn't make money."
Has anyone ever watch Prom Queen? He certainly didn't sink his bottom line on writers. Here's the first episode, sporting one line of dialog ("oh god"):
Everyone seems to accept the fact that you can't make big bucks selling ad space on the internet.
Put that coffee down.
Ad sales people have become pussies. Gone are the days when they were willing to go door to door collecting checks -- from little old ladies if need be! Has the door been slammed in your face 100 times? See what happens on the 101st time, or go home to your mother. Now ad sales folks are just responding to RFPs, dressing slutty, and trying to sell the advertisers what they've always wanted (TV ads), begging them to buy a couple online ads at the end of the sale.
If there's one thing advertisers don't know, it's what they want. That's what ad sales folks are for: to sell them what they really need. What do they need? Ads on the web, damnit (in case you hadn't heard that's where the young folks are spending a bunch of their time lately).
Perhaps the networks should strike against Madison Ave: No more upfront ad buys until you move at least 25% of your ad spend online.
If the WGA strike forces the networks grow some balls and sell ads online for a decent rate, it'll be good for the writers, the networks, and even the advertisers.
Best line: "I encouraged the company to send their lawyers in to write our episodes..."
I don’t know but I been told,
Sumner Redstone’s made of gold.
Makes his money off our sweat,
Won’t pay us for internet.
I don’t know but some folk say,
Paramount is late to pay.
Why we marching at this gate?
We got screwed in ‘88.
It turns out SAG member Jamie Lee Curtis has actually thrown down the gauntlet:
That's the best these writers can come up with?
We can't let this stand. Please keep sending your stories, slogans, and ideas to writerspicket [at] gmail [dot] com.
Many hugs and kisses to print writers at Mediabistro, who just labeled Writers Strike as "Our New Favorite Blog".
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
With all their faults, trade unions have done more for humanity than any other organization of men that ever existed. They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the developing of character in men, than any other association of men.Lots of great nuggets in this video from the WGA West. One of the opening quotes from WGAer Andy Gellis is:
People need to remember that writers write this stuff.Folks, this strike doesn't mean you can't write some good material for your own anti-networks YouTube videos. It sounds like that line was written by a member of the Screen Actors Guild.
Ron, don't be envious of TV folks. Join our quest to liberate media. Stop blogging and picket Mediabistro. If your blog posts makes it to DVD, Laurel Touby and her new overlords at Jupitermedia Corporation will not pay you a cent.
Follow the exciting adventures of Jane Espenson, the
I am freshly returned from the picket line. They have put our "team" of Battlestar writers at a secondary, but strategically important Universal side gate, primarily an entrance to the theme park but also used by productions. Even there, hidden and isolated, I was delighted to be joined by a number of fans and gentle blog readers who found me and then carried signs and endured my foot-sore company for the duration! Thank you! And, as for the rest of you, I would love to meet more of you during future mornings.
All this has happened before. All this will happen again. Just watch BSG Episode Number 54 to see how the strike ends.
Face it, we’re not a pretty union. We'll never be mistaken for SAG.
At one point I was walking with Jim Brooks and Allan Burns (two of my absolute IDOLS) and a reporter approached Jim (pictured left). Once she confirmed he was involved with THE SIMPSONS she asked this multi Oscar and Emmy winner “are you also a writer?”
Meanwhile, another SIMPSONS scribe, Mike Scully was marching… on crutches. There's got to be some WGA award he can win for that, right?
There was a union guy with a megaphone trying to rally the troops. We’re not used to that. He tried to lead us all in a rousing chant of “We are the writers, the mighty mighty writers!” and the only reaction he got was snickering. Note to anyone with a megaphone: We’re just not a real rah rah bunch.
It was fun to reconnect with friends I hadn't seen in awhile (i.e. the last strike).
You also see a lot of people on the line you haven’t seen in awhile and can’t remember who they are or how you know them. Overheard a LOT: “Hey, man/babe/dude/guy, how are ya? You’re looking great.”
Also overheard every six seconds: “What WERE you working on?”
Unfortunately, you also see every writer who ever fucked you over in your career, got the job you coveted, beat you in an arbitration, stole your girl, or beaned you in an industry softball game. And you pass by them again...and again...and again...and again...
Is Curb entirely ad libbed?
It seems to me the show is almost entirely ad-libbed. Well, turns out it is, kind of. He says the writers (and Larry) develop an outline for a scene-- ("I have to ask you out to dinner but this is the problem...") and then they ad lib the scene. Then they ad lib it again. And then again. And then they take the best parts of the ad libbing and actually start doing the scene the way they want it.
So by the final take, Danson says he's "back to being an actor." Meaning, he's back to working off a script, albeit a script they formed on the spot in previous takes. He says it's some of the most fun he's ever had... just don't tell Larry.