Friday, November 23, 2007

What Jack Has To Say...

Jack Myers at MediaPost's Think Tank today provides some interesting strike-related info and some even more interesting commentary and forecasting.

First, the info:
Fifty three percent of 300 media, advertising and entertainment executives believe writers should continue to “hold out for everything they want,” with 47% voting for them to “pick up their pencils and get back to work.” According to the poll conducted by, a slight majority of a group that should be expected to be more sympathetic to the networks and studios express support for the Writers Guild of America.

This surprising result suggests underlying acknowledgement that digital assets represent an important and growing revenue stream for the industry and, although it is impossible to assess the long-term incremental value represented by digital, writers indeed deserve a slice of the pie.

Okay, not a landslide but fair enough. Now some commentary:
The ironic reality of the writers’ strike is its irrelevancy. Digital media is disrupting the economic models of an industry whose models have been broken for years. Today, fewer than one network television series in twelve breaks through to profitability. This one program in twelve has to support the enormous operating overhead of those who risk capital to develop and produce the programs. It is a business of failure, not success. The Writers Guild of America wants a piece of that American Dream — the ability to fail time and time and time again, and ultimately have a profitable business. Networks and studios prefer to hold onto their right to fail upward for as long as they can.

Writers are rewarded now for their failures; they want a bigger slice of the action in those rare instances they succeed. Whether the strike ends soon or continues into the new year, there’s a new business model in town.

Okay, interesting perspective, though not sure I exactly agree with writers being rewarded for failure...compensation for reuse or residuals is an artists right, regardless of how much is being made on the back end. And it's a mutually benefiting formula dependent on use and not necessarily success...the more it's 'used', the more compensation. If it ain't used, no compensation.

And finally, the forecast:
In the post-strike digital world, thousands of concepts will be cheaply produced and scattered across the digital landscape, much of it by members of the unionized Hollywood community who are being disenfranchised by the established economic models. Broadband and mobile video Web sites will eagerly offer distribution for this content, and ad sales networks such as Broadband Enterprises and Tremor Media will help fund it through advertiser support. A few will find their way to cable and broadcast series that make up the best of the Web, and ultimately networks and studios will acquire development rights to the best, in a reversal of current windows. Studios and networks will increase their production of online content and significantly reduce their investment in script and pilot development.

At the end of the strike, whenever that is, writers will need to become more entrepreneurial if they hope to benefit from digital income. I can’t envision any scenario where writers get to simply sit and write and expect to benefit financially whether or not their scripts are ever developed.

I don't know if anyone will disagree with this last one. And I hope the Canadian networks, companies, and creatives are taking notes...we always seem to be about three years behind the U.S. curve, and don't want to get left in the dust.

Start donning those different hats now.

Read the entire post HERE.


Bill Cunningham said...

I don't have a problem with his predictions at all, except for the fact that he postulates that the bulk of online content will be from unionized writers.

It will be the indies who pave the way and establish the business model, THEN the union boys will dip their toe in the water. Then as the market gets saturated, the indies will have already moved on....

Wil Z said...

The article misses one central point. The only reason studios and networks pour money into development is to control content before it is created (i.e. while it is still on paper). To simply become buyers of internet content would be to cede that control.

No doubt there will be successful internet content that networks will snap up and re-engineer for their purposes, but to say that it will become the dominant model for development is a stretch.

Networks don't buy shows.
They buy potential. They buy talent. They buy people so that they may control their next product, not their last.

wcdixon said...

Excellent point wil z, excellent point.

Ed McNamara said...

To wil z's point - where does 'Quarterlife' fit into this? It may be early days yet, but NBC buying it shows an example of creators of content, turned away originally, using the internet to skip across development. An extreme example in a turbulent time perhaps, but one that fits. I agree that this may not become the dominant model of development, but I would guess that as the traditional models of production and distribution change, so will those of development.