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Writers Guild Strike Looms

The Writers Guild of America
AP
The Writers Guild of America

The Writers Guild of America warned the movie studios and TV networks that they're going to persist with demands for a bigger cut of new-media revenues.

The WGA put out its 25-item "pattern of demands," which emphasize that writers must be compensated appropriately when their work is played on digital platforms like the internet or cell phones. That includes work created specifically for those new platforms, or content created for traditional media and repurposed for the new media world.

What's up for grabs are "residuals," payments that writers get when a movie they wrote is re-aired on TV, or when a TV show goes into syndication. The WGA's opposition, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, said that the WGA's 25-item "pattern of demands" was unrealistic, and says that the companies will push to revamp the entire residual structure, so writers only get paid residuals when shows become profitable.

Other issues likely to cause conflict: the WGA wants jurisdiction not just over traditional scripted programming, but also over reality shows, animation and game shows, plus increased initial pay in all areas. That's not all; they're also asking for increased caps on company pension and health contributions.

The pact expires October 31 -- and if there's no agreement, a strike could start at the beginning of November. This was a big topic of conversation at the upfronts, where a number of network representatives and show producers told me they're working ahead as much as possible, trying to get plenty of extra scripts and show in the can, so they'll be relatively "strike-proof." That, of course, depends on how long the strike goes.

Writers and industry execs are telling me that a strike is bad for everyone -- money is lost all around. But that doesn't mean that it's not going to happen.

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.