Hollywood’s writers have won a piece of action in the coming boom for movies and TV shows online. Assuming there is a boom.
Their union early Saturday secured a percentage deal for revenues from online distribution of TV shows and films, starting in the third and final year of a new contract. For years 1 and 2, writers will get $1,200-plus as a flat fee for Internet runs of a one-hour TV show.
The 2% share of revenue is seen as a guarantee writers will share in any spike in online revenues for the networks and studios. That share may not mean be all that rich in three years, but it will set a starting point for future contract negotiations. (Writers felt they’d been screwed when they failed to see DVDs as the video medium of choice.)
Writers also fear that network use of reruns will fade as current and catalog shows are being routinely uploaded for free viewing, cutting off residuals.
The flat residual rate for online video had been agreed upon earlier in the year, but the writers prolonged the strike seeking the percentage. (Directors accepted the flat residuals.) Early Saturday, the deal was made.
The networks and producers argued, with some justification, that the economic model for making money online hasn’t been found, and the costs of getting online distribution to work fall to them alone.
Writers have to ratify the deal — a no-brainer given the misery index here in L.A. — and could be back at work as early as Wednesday, guild officials said.
Also under the deal, movies and TV shows sold online — such as those on the iTunes Store — will provide a doubled residual rate for the writers compared with DVDs.
The Writers Guild of America also won jurisdiction over bigger-budget Internet programming.
The guild told its members, “It is an agreement that protects a future in which the Internet becomes the primary means of both content creation and delivery. We believe that continuing to strike now will not bring sufficient gains to outweigh the potential risks and that the time has come to accept this contract and settle the strike.”
My pal Bill Braunstein recently weighed in on the reality and animation writers’ situation over on Write for Blogs.