Living in the Future – How Things are Going for TV

The paradigm, she is a’changin’:

Cord cutting is battering away at traditional distribution – big time!

by John Biggs

A report by MoffettNathanson found that the pay cable industry lost 762,000 subscribers in Q1 2017, the worst drop ever. To compare last year’s Q1 saw a mere 141,000 subscribers lost.

Analyst Craig Moffett said that the “Pay TV subscriber universe [shrank] at its worst ever annual rate of decline (-2.4%)” and there have been 6.5 million cord-cutter (and the new “cord-never” user who doesn’t install a Pay TV source at all) watchers since 2013.

What does this mean? First it’s clear that cord cutting his here to stay. Now that nearly every must-watch program is available via streaming and, in many cases, all at once via Netflix and other services there is even less impetus to channel surf, once the primary mode of TV discovery.

This means networks have to work harder to get their content in front of receptive audiences and it also means that services like Netflix and Hulu are truly taking a huge chunk of the TV entertainment market. Now that sports and international programming is headed to streaming we can only expect this trend to accelerate.

All of this churn is making the cable carriers restless. They are currently blaming retention offers for their inability to keep customers. Moffett, however, isn’t fooled….

“Whatever the cause, it seems naïve to suggest that we have seen the worst of the trend. Instead, this is almost certainly just the beginning,” Moffett told Multichannel, a news outlet covering TV and cable….

Read it all at TechCrunch

Inside the WGA-AMPTP Negotiating Room

A succinct and, overall, quite fair report on the negotiation process in the 2017 WGA-AMPTP contract negotiations from one of H’wood’s favorite trade mags:

by Cynthia Littleton

The dam broke at about 10:30 p.m. on Monday night. With 90 minutes to go to the strike deadline, the WGA and major studios began to find their way to the compromises that had been elusive during the previous five days of contract negotiations.

By 12:15 a.m. Tuesday, after a break for caucusing, the sides returned to the big table at the Sherman Oaks headquarters of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to declare that the deal was done.

What tipped the scales? From the WGA’s perspective, it was the pressure of the ticking clock and the unquestionable demonstrations of unity among guild members to strike if the leadership didn’t feel like they were being offered a fair deal.

From the view of the AMPTP, the WGA’s strategy was one of brinksmanship. With the threat of a walkout hanging over the room, the WGA, led by chief negotiator David Young, used their leverage to successfully push the studios for incremental gains nearly to the last minute before settling. Young once again earned the admiration of many members for his steely resolve and confidence that the guild was on the right course, even if it meant a work stoppage, to secure justified gains for writers.

Sources close to the situation credited the AMPTP, led by president Carol Lombardini, with the tactical decision to not throw down the gauntlet of a last, best and final offer. The absence of such take-it-or-leave-it pressure allowed the sides to keep talking well into the night, a process that helped both camps move toward common ground. The desire to avoid the disruption and financial losses incurred a decade ago during the 100-day WGA strike from November 2007-February 2008 was also a motivating factor for both sides.

In the heat of the negotiations, sources on both sides of the table noted the leadership demonstrated by Christopher Keyser, who co-chaired the negotiating committee along with Billy Ray and Chip Johannessen. Keyser, a veteran showrunner who served as president of the WGA West from 2011-2015, is said to have made an eloquent final pitch for why the guild was pushing so hard for a codified family leave plan in the master WGA contract. He cited the hardship that job insecurity has on young writers in particular when starting a family. In the end, a source said the family leave agreement does not give TV writers paid time off but does guarantee for the first time that they will be able to return to a job after up to eight unpaid weeks off, as long as the series remains in production.

Sources close to the situation also credited the high level of engagement in the talks by top industry leaders — including CBS Corp. chairman Leslie Moonves, Warner Bros. chairman-CEO Kevin Tsujihara, Fox Networks Group’s Peter Rice and Disney/ABC TV’s Ben Sherwood – in providing the will for AMPTP negotiators to address the most pressing issues raised by the WGA. Throughout the talks, Lombardini with the support of the CEOs gradually met a significant number of the WGA’s most urgent demands in order to neuter them as strike-worthy issues. The studio chiefs weren’t thrilled about writing a big check — said to be about $90 million — to shore up the WGA’s over-taxed health plan, but they knew that was a central issue for writers at all levels that would have fueled strike sentiment had it been ignored….

Read it all at Variety

Read another view – more entertaining, maybe, but who can tell these days? – at SFGate

WGA Official Tentative AMPTP Agreement Message

From the officers’ and negotiators’ lips to our ears:

 

No Strike! WGA & AMPTP Reach Agreement in Nick of Time

Could be better…but it also could have been much, much worse:

Whew! (Of course, now we’ve still got to vote on it, but….)

New York Mayor’s Office Names Winners of Women’s Scriptwriting Competition

This is important, dammit! Read on:

by Bryn Elise Sandberg

he New York Mayor’s Office has named two winners for its female scriptwriting competition.

Patty Carey-Perazzo’s Half-Life and Robin Rose Singer’s Adult Behavior have won a first-of-its-kind citywide screenwriting contest focused on stories by, for or about women. The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) and Brooklyn College’s Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema announced the selections Wednesday.

The first project centers on a mother trying to restart her stalled career, and the other is about a young woman who moves to New York to work at a Bronx nursing home. The winning scripts were chosen from a pool of over 300 scripts by a panel of industry leaders to be developed into pilots that will air on NYC Media, the City’s official broadcast network with a reach of 18 million households. One of the two winning pilots will be selected for four additional episodes, to air on NYC Media in the summer of 2018.

“Congratulations to Patty and Robin, whose work stood out in a competitive field,” said MOME commissioner Julie Menin. “The contest they have won, as well as four other women’s initiatives our office is rolling out, reflect our commitment to addressing the well-documented underrepresentation of women in the film and television industry — both on and off the screen.”

“This opportunity is unparalleled,” said Carey-Perazzo, who took time out from her day job as a location manager to write about a woman’s attempt to lean back into her career after leaning out to raise her children….

Read it all at Hollywood Reporter

WGA Strike Authorization Vote Results

Like they say in The Lion King, “And so it begins.”

Maybe. Remember, we’re not walking the picket lines yet.

Anyway, here’s the email sent by the WGA late yesterday afternoon:

April 24, 2017

Dear Colleague–

The results of our strike authorization vote are now in.

96.3% of you have voted YES.

6,310 ballots were cast. 67.5% of eligible WGA members voted, a historic turnout.

We thank you for your resolve and your faith in us as your representatives. We are determined to achieve a fair contract.

Talks will resume tomorrow.

Your 2017 Negotiating Committee

Chip Johannessen, Co-Chair
Chris Keyser, Co-Chair
Billy Ray, Co-Chair

Alfredo Barrios, Jr.
Amy Berg
Adam Brooks
Patti Carr
Zoanne Clack
Marjorie David
Kate Erickson
Jonathan Fernandez
Travon Free
Howard Michael Gould
Susannah Grant
Erich Hoeber
Richard Keith
Warren Leight
Damon Lindelof
Glen Mazzara
Alison McDonald
Jonathan Nolan
Zak Penn
Luvh Rakhe
Shawn Ryan
Stephen Schiff
David Shore
Meredith Stiehm
Patric M. Verrone
Eric Wallace
Beau Willimon
Nicole Yorkin

Howard A. Rodman, WGAW President, ex-officio
Michael Winship, WGAE President, ex-officio
David A. Goodman, WGAW Vice President, ex-officio
Jeremy Pikser, WGAE Vice President, ex-officio
Aaron Mendelsohn, WGAW Secretary-Treasurer, ex-officio
Bob Schneider, WGAE Secretary-Treasurer, ex-officio
Writers Guild of America, West
7000 West Third Street, Los Angeles, CA 90048
Phone (323) 951-4000 • Fax (323) 782-4800 • www.wga.org

Solidarity!

WGA Negotiations Update: Striking a Pose

by Mark Evanier


LB’s NOTE: This article written by the legendary Mark Evanier is the most enlightening discussion I’ve seen yet of the current state of the contract renewal negotiations between the WGA and the AMPTP. Things are getting heated, gang. And Mark is here to tell us why:


very few years, the contract between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers expires and a new one must be negotiated. Sometimes, the negotiations are simple and sometimes, they are not. When they are not, it is because someone at the A.M.P.T.P. — or at at least one of the member companies that comprise the A.M.P.T.P. — decides he or she can be a hero and advance his or her career by engineering a deal that pays the writers less or at least denies us cost o’ living increases.

I joined the W.G.A. on April Fool’s Day of 1976 so I have been through many of these and sometimes been fairly close to the negotiations. It is my observation that these dust-ups are never about what’s “fair,” at least from the Producers’ standpoint. And when they say things like, “The business is hurting…everyone needs to understand that and accept some cuts,” that is always, 100% of the time, horseshit. For them, these dickerings are only about one thing: Getting as much as possible. The less we get, the more they get.

Whenever Renegotiation Time rolls around, my guild assembles something called the Pattern of Demands — a wish list of things we’d like to discuss. Many times, it is a waste of time because the studios simply refuse to address anything on our list. Their negotiators literally end the meeting if our reps bring out the list. One of the Producers’ lawyers in years past liked to say things like, “We are never going to let these sessions be about what you want. They will only be about what we are willing to give you.”

If anyone does look at our Pattern of Demands, they’ll see items about increased compensation but they will also always see issues that are not directly about money. We want our work to be respected more. We want to be listened-to more on creative matters. We want minorities (including older writers of any color) to be given more consideration. We want our credits to be protected and so forth. Call these the non-monetary issues.

There are people in management at the studios who care about such things but we tend to not negotiate with those folks. The people we deal with only care about the money and with keeping as much of it as possible for their employers. If they address the non-monetary issues at all, it’s because they think they can trade one of the unimportant non-monetary issues for an important monetary one. In the ’85 negotiations for instance, the Producers demanded a change in credit procedures that would have gutted the WGA’s ability to control who received screen credit. They didn’t really care about that. They just wanted to be able to say, “Okay, we’ll drop our demands about credits if you drop your demands about money.”

Because we care (somewhat) about the non-monetary issues and they don’t, sometimes that works. Indeed, in ’85, they dropped those demands but in the same bargaining sessions, we accepted for other reasons a lowering of the fees we were paid when films or TV shows we wrote were put out on home video. The former cost them nothing. The latter cost us billions. From the Producers’ standpoint, that was a wildly-successful negotiation. That year, I don’t think they ever even listened to anything we had in our Pattern of Demands.

Even factoring in that our brief strike that year cost them some cash, the guys who engineered that deal for them were superstar heroes. It was like they’d made a dozen movies as lucrative as Star Wars or Titanic. Each time we embark on a new negotiation, there’s someone there who dreams of doing that again….

Read it all at News From ME (Mark Evanier’s truly enlightening blog)