The “best of” the WGA strike… so far

The wind is changing in Hollywood and TV-land. Let me give you an overview on the WGA strike so far, before telling you why this is happening (and what I think it means).

Hollywood’s writers have been in talks with producers for a while now in order to come to a new arrangement regarding their fees when it comes to DVD sales and content that is being released online or on mobile devices (phones, iPods, …). A resolution was not achieved by 31st October (when their current contracts expired), and now the writers are on strike until this issue is resolved. 

What does this mean for TV viewers? Basically, a lot of re-runs, prolonged newscasts and a lack of topical comedy. Shows like Letterman or the Jay Leno Show rely heavily on their writers to come up with topical jokes. Their production has stopped already, and networks have started showing repeats. 

In the past few days there have been a flood of great reports on the strike. Instead of rehashing this information I’ll point you directly to the articles, so you can get a good picture of what’s going on:

The BBC reports on the talk shows hit by the writers strike.

Wired has an article on the ripple effects of the writers strike on the advertising deals and a possible (and probable) shift of media use (more print and – of course – web use) during the change of programming. 

 Variety has an article on how the strike came about (and whether or not it could have been prevented).

The Huffington Post has several articles: this one is about three more shows that have cancelled production; this one has a good summary of the course of events so far; and this one by Alec Baldwin talks about the effects of the last strike in ’88 (which was 22 weeks long), and what this one could mean for the greater LA economy that is closely connected to the film biz.

Why is this happening? Because there is a paradigm shift occurring in the traditional business model of film distribution. The lions share of the money that Hollywood makes comes in through licence and selling to the “in-home” market (DVDs, TV, Internet). The salaries of the writers are not reflecting this shift though. And because Hollywood is desperately trying to hold on to an old model that is rapidly going out the window this strike is on. 

I am pretty confident that the writers will get their way. Firstly: no script, no show. It’s as simple as that. There are a lot of people that can be replaced in the filmproduction process, but without writers no one else can go to work. Secondly: the paradigm shift. Hollywood has seen a transformation of the classic “Window-System” in the past years: the theatrical release gets less important, and the major source of income is now the “In-home” market. The writers know that – that’s why they are making those demands. Even if the “Window-System” isn’t completely out of the picture yet, it is certainly transforming rapidly. And the writers contracts should reflect that. 

What do you think? Have you been affected by the strike? Are you for example a The Daily Show-fan and are now having to put up with re-runs? Share your thoughts!


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