Friday, February 8, 2008

Bionic Woman Saves Hollywood

How the NY Times didn't come up with the headline "Bionic Woman Saves Hollywood" for this story is beyond us.
Over the last two weeks, Laeta Kalogridis, a movie and TV writer and a founder of United Hollywood, a pro-union Web site, emerged as an unlikely peacemaker.

Working the phones and e-mail during her forced hiatus, she operated as a conduit between David J. Young, a militant leader of the guild, and Peter A. Chernin, the News Corporation president, who was similarly protective of company interests.

As Ms. Kalogridis joined those trying to resolve the dispute, players on both sides finally shifted ground, most importantly on the issue of new-media compensation. That cleared the way to a deal that will be reviewed by writers in meetings here and in New York on Saturday...

Even as Mr. Bowman became more vocal, Mr. Young was listening closely to Ms. Kalogridis, who had become a guild confidante. Described by associates as vibrant and impassioned, Ms. Kalogridis — whose credits include the “Bionic Woman” television series — had joined with a half dozen associates to make their United Hollywood site ( a rallying spot for striking writers. As recently as last week, the Web site shook the continuing talks by posting a strong critique of the directors’ deal by Phil Alden Robinson, the writer and director of “Field of Dreams” and a board member.

Ms. Kalogridis and her friends, in fact, had become a pipeline to the guild members holding out for sizable gains, whose support would be needed if any deal was to be reached. And she, like Mr. Bowman, had become convinced that the current round of talks must not be allowed to fail...

Mr. Young put together the ultimate compromise — a flat fee for part of the contract’s life, a percentage during the rest. Ms. Kalogridis, late last week, then found herself in the thick of a bargaining process that eventually won a handshake on the point. She stressed to Mr. Rosen and others that guild members would never approve a deal that did not have a percentage payment for Web streams. Mr. Rosen became an advocate with Mr. Chernin. Mr. Chernin, at one point, invited Ms. Kalogridis to communicate with him directly. And shortly afterward, he signed off.

1 comment:

Andy Hunn said...

It appears that a deal has been struck and will be voted on by the WGA this evening. If approved, the strike will be over and TV can start production again. Most likely, the evening talk shows, The Tonight Show, Late Night, Jimmy Kimmel, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report will start fresh shows on Monday. For scripted series, the delay to fresh shows are still months away. But the landscape for TV has been forever changed.

The Networks will become much more efficient in their spending on shows. Commitments will be made with tighter budgets attached. Should a show make it to pilot form, it will move quickly to series. If a show doesn't perform on network, watch it pop up on cable and vice versa. Don't be surprised to see Psych, Monk, or even Mad Men repurposed on network. A series will complete its 13 episode minimum regardless of its initial rating cause the expectation is that it will be repurposed across cable and the web, to assure it finds a profit. And vertically alligned businesses, like NBC with their hands in each of these distribution points will do especially well. They can effectively spread the risk and increase the return from each of these productions.

At the same time, reality shows are starting to show their age. Survivor's latest adventure recently scored its lowest ratings. Deal or No Deal has gotten so desperate, half the briefcases have to contain $1 million dollars just to keep the viewer's interest. And even American Idol has looked beatable. As fresh content comes back to TV, the ratings for these reality shows will suffer further. The writers strike has gotten them to wear out their welcome.

To me shows like Saturday Night Live will prove even more lucrative to the new model. It generates both short form and long form content for the web (for example all the digital shorts) , it provides a testing ground for actors and writers (Conan O'Brien was a writer on SNL, Tina Fey a writer and performer who was able to create 30 Rock for NBC, the show has been re cut to an hour and syndicated to E!, and it creates commercial parodies, best of's and political specials that are repurposed into prime time specials. It created a DVD of its first 5 years so most likely more will come. Prior to the strike, the guest host was Brian Williams, NBC News anchor who post appearance saw the ratings for NBC News rise. Its been an effective medium to promote other shows as well. And during the strike, various shows and specials filled the prime time air. In short SNL is the golden goose to NBC. It creates original content that can be merchandized and monetized across multiple distribution points. Try doing that with Deal or No Deal!