The Writers Guild of America
(WGA) strike that began Nov. 5 has crippled shows across the television schedule,
forcing the networks to air reruns and reality shows, costing the California entertainment
industry millions of dollars per day and threatening the popular Feb. 24 Oscars
The more than 12,000 members of the WGA are protesting the
fact that they aren't paid anything when someone watches their work on the Internet.
networks don't disclose how much they earn from Web streaming, but online advertising
amounted to more than $20 billion last year in the United States, a 20 percent
jump over 2006, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Writers receive initial fees for
their scripts. If their programs are replayed or resold to cable channels, they
get additional royalties known as "residuals," payments that often sustain
them between projects.
Oscar-nominated writer Tony Gilroy attends a New York event to support striking
For instance, if a writer drafted an episode of "Lost"
they would receive an initial fee for the episode and a residual fee (about $20,000)
if the show plays as a rerun.
The networks and studios, represented by
the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), said new media
is just too new and uncertain to make a substantial three year commitment (the
length of the contract) to all the different people who put together a show.
position is absolutely that it's too new to set any kind of formula that they
are going to stand by for the next three years. And because of that, they proposed
having a study to take place over the next three years and then bring it up at
the next bargaining session every three years," Thom Taylor, a former entertainment
journalist who now works at a global investment bank, told the NewsHour.
AMPTP also downplayed the market value of online video, arguing that the main
reason to put programs on the Internet is to get viewers to watch films and TV
shows on television.
However, the AMPTP did acknowledge writers are owed
some residuals for online distribution. It offered writers a flat fee of $250
for each hour-long program streamed over the Internet. The writers countered with
2.5 percent of the producers' gross revenue.
Directors come to an agreement
Meanwhile, the Directors Guild of
America entered contract talks with the AMPTP in January and quickly came to an
Joel and Ethan Coen, directors of the film "No Country For Old Men",
pose with their best picture awards from the Directors Guild of America, which
recently reached an agreement with the AMPTP.
The preliminary deal doubles the residuals rate that was paid for
decades when films and television programs were resold on DVDs and requires Hollywood
studios and production companies to pay a residual when advertising-supported
programs are streamed for free over the Internet.
The residual kicks in
after a 17-day time period, and is pegged at about $600 per episode of a one-hour
network prime-time drama, for 26 weeks ($350 more than what was offered to the
Michael Apted, president of the Directors Guild, said he "felt
it was our responsibility to you and to our industry to act," referring to
the thousands of entertainment workers unemployed due to the extended writers'
Actors will face similar issues
Although Hollywood journalists said
the deal with directors would put pressure on the writers to compromise, the Writers
Guild leaders put out a press release saying the directors were negotiating only
Actors such as George Clooney will face pay issues when the Screen Actors Guild
The Screen Actors Guild, which represents movie stars
and supporting cast alike, faces these same issues when its contract expires June