Saturday, January 12, 2008
Nobody ever asked me, but the Writers strike is a bad idea. I mean, it's a bad idea for them, not for me. For Pandora Machine, it's a great idea. They should strike for years.
1. It's a bad idea because the employers want them to strike. That's always bad -- doing what you're told. It's an ineffective strike action if it's just doing what the employers want. The studios figured they could clean house and make some money using force majeur clauses in their contracts. So when the strike happened, that's just what they did.
2. It's a bad idea because as it turns out, striking Writers means fewer people watching TV shows. What's wrong with that? How does that help the employers? It helps them because the advertisers still need to hit the same demographic numbers so they're advertising more. And when they buy more ad time, the price per ad goes up. "The best guesses so far from analysts and executives on both sides of the upfront bargaining are that agencies will agree to spend on behalf of their advertiser clients about 3 percent to 6 percent more in the coming prime-time TV season than was sold ahead of time for the 2001-2002 season."
The Networks are actually profiting off of having fewer viewers.
I doubt that the Networks anticipated that happening, but it certainly works out for them now. I bet they're going to want to ride that gravy train for a while.
3. It's a bad idea because as far as the Studios go, it's not about the Writers. Now I realize I'm using the New York Times for all my links here, and the New York Times (while not the Post) isn't the most accurate of news sources, it doesn't mean that these things aren't true. But as far as I can tell, since Terminator 3, stars have figured out how to penetrate the "first dollar" wall the Studios have had in place (at least sort of according to Edward Jay Epstein's The Big Picture.) But here's from the Times article, referring to a new report about the studio's business:
"The report, prepared by the research company Global Media Intelligence in association with its partner Merrill Lynch, concludes that much of the income — past and future — that studios and writers have been fighting about has already gone to the biggest stars, directors and producers in the form of ballooning participation deals. A participation is a share in the gross revenue, not the profit, of a movie."
So the studios are doing a proxy fight with the WGA when what's really irking them is the overly-generous deals they're making with giant stars and directors who are taking a piece of 1st-dollar gross before pictures are going into profit. (Now in essence, any "royalty" deal does the same thing, although with the Guilds and the IA it's a vastly smaller percentage.) I don't think anybody at the WGA recognizes that they're in a fight with their spouses mother-in-law (there I go getting the award for worst analogy) but in essence they are. And as long as you're arguing without mentioning the elephant in the room ("You're calling my mother an elephant!") then the real issues won't get resolved.
5. And it's a bad idea because it's about the Internet. Except for a very few businesses, the Internet has been something that's supposed to revolutionize everything and make gazillions of dollars, but instead hasn't made very much money at all for most people. Sure there's Google and Amazon, even (for a while) MySpace et al. But it's incredibly unpredictable. And nobody's figured out how to make money with movies on the dang thing. We've been hearing that it's going to happen for what? More than 15 years now...
But That Being Said 6. Please keep striking for a couple more seasons. That should help our sales at Cannes and the AFM by reducing the amount of features made by the smaller signatories and the direct-to-dvd divisions of the major studios leaving more crumbs for us. In fact, if we could just shut down the Hollywood machine for a couple years to let us catch up it would be really appreciated. Thanks!