STRUCK DUMB: THE BACK NINE: The most authoritative voice in the media covering the Hollywood writers’ strike has been the L.A. Weekly’s Nikki Finke and her Deadline Hollywood blog, and with a deal seemingly in the offing, Finke wrote a marathon post on Monday basically saying “Whoa!” to anyone who thinks the end is in sight.
Over the course of the day, Finke posted several updates to her post relaying whatever information she’d been able to get from her invariably anonymous sources behind the scenes. For anyone who’s relied on her posts for the latest, best news, Finke’s bias has been clear from the beginning. “Now is the time for everyone to back off,” she wrote, after reprinting a letter sent by the WGA telling its members to hold tight. “That's right, BACK OFF. And to let the WGA leadership talk to its board and also its membership without outside interference.”
To Finke’s eyes, there has been entirely too much outside pressure put on the WGA to settle the strike ASAP, preferably on the same terms that the Director’s Guild of America took recently. The studios and networks, however, haven’t had nearly the same sort of pressure to settle, as far as she can see. At the same time, much of Finke’s post details numerable internal lobbies, appeals and veiled threats made from within the WGA membership, by factions with varying demands. It gives an outsider some sense of the difficulty the WGA faces in maintaining a unified façade.
One little fact, mentioned briefly, suggests that any deal made now will be built on sand. Residuals are at the heart of the strike, and though there are many different kinds of residual payments, some have more priority than others; ad-supported streaming sounds like the sort of thing only accountants and managers can get excited about, but it’s a key part of the residual payouts writers will see over the next few years, and the studios’ offers have been, in Finke’s words, “excremental.”
“Even the most short-sighted entertainment seers except the moguls could peer into the future and see that, for at least the next three years, ad-embedded streaming will be the delivery method of choice formedia content producers, consumersand advertisers,” writes Finke.“It certainly is right now. And, given Wal-Mart's recent decision to abandon the downloading biz at this time (because the light demand wasn't worth thecost of the server farms), it certainly is for the life of the WGA's next contract.”
The obstacles are still formidable, but making a deal in the next week or so is a priority for both sides. “If the WGA board accepts the deal, I'm toldthatthe Back 9 of most scripted TV series could be saved,” Finke writes, “along witha no-frills pilot season with less scripted series ordered than ever before ... Feature films that were halted or thought lostcould get going immediately. And, of course, the Oscars could beheld.Butwhat happens to all this back-to-work progress if the WGA membership votes down the deal? A bigger mess than even now?” Hardly a hopeful note, so keep stocking your TiVo, people.