Saturday, February 9, 2008


I'm going to be VERY curious to see WGA member reactions to this tentative deal.

It's very clear that the DGA deal (even though not formalized in draft language) was used as a template.

The only real differentiations as I can tell is an added "Downloads Rental" section (which, with Netflix's move towards online rental and the opening of the iTunes Rental store actually may be quite a significant gain, given that it is set at 1.2%) and the section on Separated Rights.

The jurisdictional clause is pretty close to the DGA language, only instead of a "WGA member" (instead of DGA member) working on the project satisfying the jurisdiction requirement, it is termed as a "professional writer", which I think is quite interesting. The actual draft language will probably detail this section, but it certainly seems to imply than non-WGA members count as "professional writers". The deal memo is vague.

Meanwhile, it's the same (pretty shitty) EST rates (0.36% for first 100,000 TV / 50,000 feature, increases to 0.7% and 0.65% respectively). On the flip side, hey, maybe this means we'll actually find out how many copies of Gossip Girl are being sold on iTunes (where it's constantly #1... but we've had no idea what that meant).

Regardless, behavioral / preference studies have shown that people are much more likely to use Ad-Supported Streaming video options than EST... and the ASS section is pretty complex and I don't want to really give a first-blush impression. I think that the feature section represents a real victory, as it is the "normal" 1.2% residual rate with no ifs, ands, or buts. The television section is the complicated part. The major difference I see is that the writers got a second year with 26-week options at 3% of the residual base, and the 2% of distributor's gross (notes, these are different bases) only kicks in at the third year (whereas I believe the directors on had one year of 26-week options, and in the second year the lower residual rate kicked in). The big question that I have is about the imputed value of the distributor gross receipts. The deal memo states that the value of said has been imputed at $40K for an hour-long show and $20K for a half-hour-long show (thus 2% per 26-week period would be $800 and $400 respectively). I know the definition of "impute", but do these residual numbers change based on what the actual gross receipts are during 26-week periods in the third (fourth, fifth, etc) year?

The explanation of this whole section (Television Ad-Supported Streaming [New Programs]>Residual Payment, Network Prime Time), I'm sure, will be the crux of whether the majority of the general membership is in favor or against this contract.

One last interesting note, though... the new contract, if ratified, would expire at the start of May 2011 (two months before the DGA and SAG contracts). This shows how effective this strike was. The studios fear that the next time the writers go on strike, it will derail a television season, the next pilot season, awards season, and the slate of movies 18 months later. Starting the contract in May lands it immediately after writing is done on network television shows, when filming is done on pilots, after awards season, and at such a time as to not have any effect on the immediate blockbusters (as some of the 2008 summer blockbusters were delayed by this strike). In other words, the writers' leverage next time they go on strike will be, well, not as much (at least there will be a less profound effect of going out on strike immediately after the contract expires). Provided the television industry's schedule stays pretty much the same, the only major effect will be the delay of the start of the next television season (like what happened in 1988). Well, hopefully there's no reason to strike for a good, long while.

3:43PM UPDATE: There seems to be a lot of noise about this missing "most favored nation" clause (for New Media areas). What gives? Also the attitude seems to be that writers have to take this deal, or wait another 3-4 months until SAG's deal is up (and presumably goes on strike). Somehow, with the deadlines coming up, the AMPTP has put the pressure on the WGA to take the deal (since, supposedly, this contract comes with a "lift the strike, then vote to take the deal or not" presumption). What gives there? You know what, some dark, deep place in me almost hopes that the general mood of the writers is against the contract, so the WGA can go back to the AMPTP and demand more (i.e. a shorter free streaming window, and some advancement on DVDs), then put it back to the membership for a 48-hour vote (instead of this 10-day vote). Come on, WGA, put the pressure on the AMPTP! Your leverage is about to expire... but until it does, USE IT!

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