As reported by most news outlets, American television networks have in recent weeks been working under the threat of an all out strike by writers, the first for two decades (back in 1988 I seem to remember some jokes in Moonlighting about off-screen strikes).
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has been in negotiation with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers over various issues, mostly related to the impact new media is having on traditional contracts.
According to a mediaguardian.co.uk report:
“The WGA wants writers to receive a slice of the advertising revenue that companies make when TV shows and films are streamed over the internet. It also wants an additional reward for creating bespoke digital content for the internet or mobile devices.
Another key sticking point is how to split DVD revenue. Consumers are expected to spend $16.4bn (£7.9m) on DVDs this year, according to Adams Media Research, but writers receive only about 3 cents on a typ
ical DVD selling for $20.”
And over at the LA Times, the following quote sums it all up:
“If you look at iTunes, ‘Hannah Montana’ and several other Disney shows are among the most avidly downloaded shows — they are hugely successful on the Internet,” Steven Peterman, an Emmy-winning “Murphy Brown” writer and “Hannah Montana” executive producer said as he picketed Disney. “And we make no money from that — zero.”
The first casualties in the war of attrition include Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, screening in the UK on More4. The writers and production staff are now on the picket lines.
Other shows being hit include Heroes spin-off Heroes: Origins, (which has been cancelled), Scrubs (in its last season and threatened with losing its last six episodes), Smallville (which has around 14 episodes stockpiled) while Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives are waiting to hear their fate.
For anyone that buys DVDs or downloads TV or movies over the internet, this is something worth keeping an eye on.
Oh yeah, and about that Moonlighting episode…