Writers' Strike: Still No Offers Anyone Can't Refuse

Writers Guild of America
CNBC.com
Writers Guild of America

There's good news--the Writers Guild said the last two days of talks with the AMPTP (the producers association) were "substantive." Among the topics they made progress on--the issue of whether the union should have jurisdiction over made-for-Internet content and for reality TV.

But don't get too excited, the two sides still have a long ways to go, particularly on the issue of payments for streaming and downloading of TV shows and movies over the Internet. This has been a key sticking point from the very beginning. The writers have made a new proposal on how to handle this issue, and they've made it very clear they're waiting for a response.

Digital revenues are tiny at this point (so the amount these writers will get over the next few years from these negotiations can't possibly compare with the current income they're losing). But the writers are concerned they'll become the lion's share of revenue in the future. So here's the irony: the longer the strike lasts, the more likely the studios and networks will lose viewers to user-generated content.

The AMPTP is making sure the writers know exactly what they're risking, saying it believes both sides can find common ground to allow the industry to "survive and prosper" in a changing global marketplace. Translation: yeah, we get that you want a piece of that pie, but if we don't get this over with, we'll all be handicapped in competing in this crazy new digital world. (That's my interpretation).

So what now? They're back at the negotiating table, and everyone's hoping it'll wrap up before Christmas. (You can't order a coffee or get a pedicure in this town without hearing everyone complain about how the strike has hurt their business). There's extra pressure on both sides to get writers back to work by January--if they don't it'll really put a damper on awards season.

It's writers who are responsible for all those jokes, and some shows may be cancelled entirely. And the TV critics conference in January has already been cancelled--a good indication of how the entire 2008 TV season could be thrown off by an ongoing strike.

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