Hollywood Writers to Reopen Their Laptops

11 February 2008

LOS ANGELES: After a lapse of fifteen weeks that allowed its members to recover from occupational RSI, the Writers Guild of America this weekend inked a deal with Hollywood studio producers that will reunite the scribes with their laptops.

Following the industry's longest labor stoppage in twenty years, the WGA has asked its membership to greenlight the deal, with voting taking place on Sunday and again today, Monday.

Word on the studio block is that the agreement is supported by the majority of members, who are expected to return to work later this week. 

The interregnum, which resulted in many top-rated shows going off-air, has left producers desperate to return to the status quo before audiences succumb to the alternative delights of the internet, DVDs. and video games – never again to return to the networks.

The three-year deal centers on a formula that cuts-in writers on revenues from new media, a sector that although small at present, is likely to dominate the program-making industry in the near future.

Writers will also receive residual payments for web-streamed video programs, exactly as for traditional shows. And from year three of the deal, they will also receive 2% of distributor's revenues from such streams.

But according to some industry observers, the writers will return to a fundamentally changed studio landscape, in which long-term production contracts have been decimated.

In particular, NBC Universal has been in Freddie Kruger mode, slashing budgets on the so-called 'pilot season',  in which studios annually commission a range of sample episodes of new shows to dangle beneath the noses of advertisers and agencies.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff