OTT Worries: Writers Want More Money, Control

Ever-growing OTT platforms have always seems so promising to a creative content community. More TV shows and movies, and in theory, more money for everyone.

But that is not the way the big writers union -- the Writers Guild of America -- sees it. Of its 13,000 members, around 9,000 have agents. The WGA has recommended those writers fire their agents; many have done so.

Why? The continued efforts of talent agencies to not only package TV shows -- with their producers, writers and talent clients -- but to own actual TV/film productions. To the WGA, this is a major conflict of interest.

Though there has been a rise in TV program creation -- now some 500 originally scripted premium TV shows around -- WGA says it  comes with many financial side effects.

This includes shorter production seasons, lower salaries, less predictable work cycles and -- looking at Netflix -- little potential back-end rewards for TV shows. For decades, as well as today, movie/TV studios garnered big revenue from back-end/reruns deals -- U.S. syndication on TV stations/cable networks or international TV networks.



At the same time -- on the other side -- there is increasing pressure on Hollywood talent agencies from new investors to grow beyond collecting say 10% fees from clients, including writers.

For decades, packaging of TV shows has been a potential threat -- perhaps shrugged off by writers in good times. But packaging has always been a prelude to actual ownership of TV/film productions.

What does it mean? In the short-term, very little. If the WGA, in negotiations with the Association of Talent Agencies, determines how to gain more compensation for its writers, much of this will resolve itself. And Hollywood tensions will come to a rest, only to speed up later.

Higher production costs could then get passed on to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, CBS All Access -- as well as traditional TV networks.

Does this mean those $10 to $15 a month OTT platforms could go to $20? $25? Yes. And that, in turn, will create some dings in for the growing OTT new digital video industry, where cost concerns are key.

Next story loading loading..