STRUCK DUMB: AND NOW THE END IS NEAR: “We have a tentative deal,” began the letter sent by the heads of the Writers Guild of America’s east and west coast chapters to their striking members on Saturday, signaling that the end of the Hollywood writer’s strike is finally in sight. “It is an agreement that protects a future in which the Internet becomes the primary means of both content creation and delivery. It creates formulas for revenue-based residuals in new media, provides access to deals and financial data to help us evaluate and enforce those formulas, and establishes the principle that, ‘When they get paid, we get paid.’”
Details keep changing almost hourly, but as of Sunday evening, it looks like TV and movie writers could be back at work by as early as Wednesday, and from the sounds of it, the studios and networks want them back at their laptops pronto. “That meansBack 9 orders of some scripted TV series could be saved,” wrote Nikki Finke of the L.A. Weekly on her Deadline Hollywood blog, “along witha no-frills pilot season with less scripted series ordered than ever before. (And expect the upfront presentations to advertisers to consist of a lot more pleading than preening.)”
In a feature on the breakthrough published in Friday’s New York Times, it seems that the tipping point in negotiations was a compromise on internet residuals, “which (the writers) suspect will soon replace the reruns that have paid them tens of thousands of dollars an episode.” In a deal point modeled after the contract the Director’s Guild of American negotiated last month, writers will get a flat fee for downloads the first two years of the current contract, and a percentage starting in 2010, a concession that gives the writers “bragging rights,” as they’ve insisted from the start of the strike that the networks and studios would be loathe to cave on online residuals.
“Officials of the directors’ guild had already signaled that they would not object if the writers appeared to one-up them on that matter,” according to the Times story, adding that the DGA “reasoned that writers would need to show some gain from their strike.” Tellingly, they also rationalized that since “actual income from the Internet would remain so small in the next three years ... a percentage payment in 2010 was likely to yield little.”
The end of the strike also means that this year’s Oscars are likely to proceed, in all their meandering, tedious, awkward glory, which is really good news for CTV up here in Canada, according to a story in the Hollywood Reporter. Canadian cities such as Vancouver and Toronto – production outposts for the U.S. – have suffered during the strike, and CTV took a big hit when the Golden Globes, “traditionally a big draw for Canadian TV viewers and advertisers” according to the Reporter, were scuttled. The network holds the Canadian rights to air both awards shows, and the Oscars are (I did not know this) “Canada's most-watched TV show.” Which means that Hollywood’s celebration of its dwindling box office and increasingly dreary prestige films will likely draw millions from Peggy’s Cove to Hornby Island once again, to my own abiding mystification.