If you've been following the Writers' Strike gripping Hollywood--and how can you not since it might be the single biggest entertainment business story of the year--or even if you're somebody who just watches TV, sickened that a strike will cut short your favorite shows like "Grey's Anatomy" or "24", you're not alone. And now, one of the great names in new media is weighing in with some harsh words for Hollywood.
And for the same reason Marc Andreessen became a "New Media Mogul" with Netscape, and more recently Opsware, he once again encapsulates an issue and offers a solution. He spells it all out on his own blog. His message comes in the shadow of Michael Eisner's ridiculous tirade earlier this week that writer's shouldn't be picketing the major studios, but picketing Apple Inc. since that company is at the heart of all these pesky distribution issues.
Andreessen's comments are as cogent as Eisner's are ludicrous, since Apple might be doing more to save the entertainment industry than anyone else. He starts his blog setting the stage:
"So imagine you're a major media mogul....You're faced with a massive, once-in-a-lifetime shift in mainstream consumer behavior from traditional mass media....to new activities that you do not control: the Internet, social networking, user-generated content, mobile services, video games...Is this really the right time to pick a fight with the writers over royalties from DVD and Internet sales...?"
Studios do seem to agree that content is king--the crux of Hollywood's disdain for Apple's iTunes juggernaut. Yet, they won't offer writers a fair cut of new media distribution. If studios think they're adding value simply by aggregating the distribution, they're in for a rude awakening. Distribution is being ripped away from traditional gatekeepers, like the studios, and fast-becoming something far more democratized with artists appealing directly to fans. Just ask Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Madonna. They need writers more than writers need the studios.
"If you're a mogul, the key question has to be, what would the founders of my industry have done in this situation? Thomas Edison, Darryl Zanuck, Jack Warner, Irving Thalber, Adolph Zukor, David Selznick, Louis Mayter, David Sarnoff, Bill Paley, Walt Disney...Would they have crawled into a hole of protecting the status quo or would they be forging a new, exciting, optimistic future through force of will and creativity?"
"If you, like me, are just a normal and normally happy consumer of TV shows and movies--at least when you're not equally happily playing video games, surfing the Internet, networking socially, blogging, or kicking it with your iPod--then one day your grandchildren are likely to ask you, 'Hey, old man, I learned in school today that there used to be these companies called 'studios', and they would actually spend tens or hundreds of millions of dollars making scripted entertainment, and you would actually sit still, in a chair, and watch it-- whatever happened to that?' And you'll get to say, 'Well, it's complicated, but let me tell you a little story about the writers' strike of 2007...' "
To which I, as a tech reporter and writer not repped by the Union, again say, "Bravo!"
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