Friday, January 4, 2008


So Tom Cruise's mini-major movie studio, United Artists, has apparently signed an independent deal with the WGA, per Nikki Finke's website.

Great news for the WGA. Now not only an independent and very small television production company has signed on, but a legit studio. Writers can pitch movies. Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner will have their pick of the spec script litter. What's more, UA is a member organization of the AMPTP, while David Letterman's Worldwide Pants was not.

Come Monday (or perhaps as soon as tomorrow), the AMPTP will release a statement that UA only deals with movies, and thus has no concerns about the reality and animation jurisdictional issues that were part of its rationale for leave negotiations/ultimatum to the WGA on December 7th.

WGA needs to keep the momentum of "divide and conquer" going, but it won't really hit it big until one of the conglomerates with movies, TV (studio and/or network), and reality wings signs an interim or independent agreement. I suggest going after CBS Corp, which airs Letterman and Ferguson. Its main business is television, though it is branching into film. CBS Corp signing with the WGA would give it a clear advantage versus competitors by allowing CBS the network to have a pilot season (at least with CBS Corp produced scripts). Which works out even better for the conglom because it would be produced internally so all sorts of costs could be cut (or at least shuffled around the balance sheet).

Another option would be DreamWorks Animation (I'm not certain if a deal could be made with DreamWorks, which is both films and television, as it is "just" a pod at Paramount).

Goodness, how I love it when oligopolies stop colluding.

... my opinion of Tom Cruise hasn't really improved as dramatically as the subject line might suggest... but I might actually seek out Lions For Lambs now.


Anonymous said...

CBS seems like the least likely network to need a separate WGA contract since they are the network that least needs pilots for next season. Maybe their 'offspring' network, CW, could negotiate separately? CW could really use the special leg up of being the only network to have new fall shows.


Travis Yanan said...

I think the health of CBS for the rest of this season has been grossly overstated. Their crime shows repeat decently compared to serial shows, sure, but they have basically nothing to replace the shows with (7 episodes of Jericho, a new cycle of Survivor, and a handful of episodes of Old Christine and The Captain). Power of 10 is not a viewers or demo hit, and Big Brother will take up three timeslots... but unless it builds heavily on its summer ratings, it's not exactly a smash. I wouldn't be shocked to see the repeats of the crimeshows take a hit, given the glut of them.

I would definitely go after CW, but I'm not sure how that would work given the 50/50 partnership with Warner Bros. (whose head is a hardliner unlikely to break off from the main AMPTP group). Many of CW's shows are Warner Bros produced, so you would need that studio to fall in line.

Anonymous said...

Warner Brothers itself (the studio) wouldn't have to fall in line in order for new pilots to be considered/developed, though, would it? I was just thinking that CW (or some subdivision of CBS) could set up a studio with a separate agreement with the WGA and that that studio entity could develop new projects for CW.

CBS (the mother network) will be in no hurry to settle the strike in time for pilot season since they don't need to replace many shows. However, CW could use some 'headstart' in developing new shows and certainly could use the opportunity to get the cream of the crop of new shows being shopped around rather than having to pick over the other networks' rejects.


Travis Yanan said...

You're right, Warner Bros. wouldn't have to fall in line for CW to air new produced pilots (CBS Corp doesn't have a deal, but CBS is airing Letterman and Ferguson... and that's a sticking point for a number of writers, they're glad the shows are back on, but unhappy that a struck company is getting the ad revenue).

But what kind of schedule would CW really be able to cobble together without the bulk of its shows coming back? Here are the studios that control CW shows' production, and would need an agreement in order for new (scripted) episodes to air:

ABC TV Studios: Reaper
CBS-Paramount Television: Everybody Hates Chris (moot point, already shot its whole season), Aliens in America (joint with WBTV) Girlfriends, The Game, Life is Wild
Warner Bros. Television: Aliens in America (joint with CBS-P), Gossip Girl, Smallville, Supernatural, One Tree Hill

I'm not sure how CW gets a leg up on development season without your suggested specialty arm of a studio. I do remember hearing/seeing that CW was mostly bought out this season (before Novemeber) for its development, but I don't have a grid of what studios have the most (best?) projects set up there.

And if you're a writer, at this point why pitch CW in there are other viable options? You get paid less at CW (one of the things, I believe, the WGA was trying to change with this negotiation as they did a few contracts back by elevating FOX to the same monetary compensation level of ABC, CBS, NBC, and HBO).

Anonymous said...

Most definitely, CW is in trouble without any of there regular series returning. That is true of all the networks. I was just looking at 'pilot season' and thinking about a strike long enough to wipe out new development for the fall, but not so long as to wipe out all the returning series as well. In that scenario, a network that could strike a deal with the WGA in some fashion and bring a few new series to the fall schedule would have a big leg up compared with networks that ONLY had their returning series available.

Right now, like you said, new pilots are shopped to the big 4 networks first and they only get around to shopping to CW if they can't generate any interest elsewhere. However, if CW had a studio pipeline that was allowed to work through the strike and the other networks did not, it seems like CW should have an inside track on attracting new product. For example, suppose I was an independent writer (non-WGA member) and I developed a pilot idea for a new show called Travis' World. If I wanted to see it succeed, would I take it to one of the studios affected by the strike or a studio that could work during the strike and had a link to a national broadcast network?