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Friday, February 15, 2008

Writers Strike Over But Was It Worth It?

The strike helped the Writers Guild of America (WGA) achieve gains from the Alliance of Motion Pitcure and Television Producers (AMPTP) they might not have otherwise attained:

1) residual payments for shows streamed over the Internet and some union jurisdiction for programming created for the Web. Studios had originally opposed writers' demands for new-media residuals, proposing a multiyear study instead.

2) Writers will get a piece of the action as TV moves into the Internet and platforms for new media developments instead of being completely shut out of the revenue from the future of content creation and delivery.

3) Writers will get pay for shows that are streamed on advertising-supported websites.It is not being reported how much of a piece but we doubt it is anywhere near what the writers wanted. We hope it will be enough to recover the almost $800 million lost by the writers and production crews during the 3 month strike (Nov 5, 2007-Feb 25, 2008).

Where the new contract failed:

1) Writers received guarantees that any guild member hired to create original shows for the Web would be covered under a union contract, but studios can hire nonunion writers to work on low-budget Internet shows, giving them the flexibility they sought to compete in the burgeoning world of Web entertainment.

2) Writers did not shorten the 17-to-24-day window that studios have to stream their shows for promotional purposes without paying residuals. Most viewers watch repeats online within days after a program was initially broadcast.

The monetary losses during the 3 month strike appear to be relative. The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., estimates the walkout cost the local economy more than $3 billion:

1) $772 million came from lost wages for writers and production workers,
2) $981 million from various businesses that service the industry, including caterers and equipment rental houses, and
3) $1.3 billion from the ripple effect of consumers not spending as much at retail shops, restaurants and car dealers.

The total is relatively small because the L.A. economy generates $1.3 billion a day. The entertainment industry employs about 250,000 in the L.A. region, including thousands who are self-employed.
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