Commentary

Writers Demand More Control In OTT World

TV networks during this year’s upfront network presentations filled their schedules with the best TV shows for the upcoming season. You may call them “premium” TV shows.

Well, for now, anyway.

All this seems pretty much standard procedure. Yet the Writers Guild of America's battle with talent agents is ongoing. The charge is that they keep writers’ pay to a minimum -- given agents' package fees and increasing talent agency affiliates that produce movies and TV.

WGA has been instructing many of its writers to fire its agents -- and many complied.

It isn’t just the packaging fees. Talent agencies are increasingly expanding business as film and TV businesses as producers -- because there is growing opportunity from new digital platforms. Writers say this represents a conflict of interest.

Analysts say the WGA-talent agency battle could ding the production of TV shows and films.

Veteran TV producer/writer -- and talent manager -- Gavin Polone ("Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Gilmore Girls") says there’s “a possible future — a near future — where most working writers don't have agents at all.” His belief is that technology -- matching writers with shows and producers -- might be a useful tool going forward.

Growth in premium TV is an ongoing story, code for high-quality, TV-network, slick production values. Some 500-plus script, premium entertainment shows are at the core of the current TV media business — especially when it comes to seemingly exploring new OTT platforms.

As a result, Polone believes writers with fewer talent agents will mean less “hand-holding.” Still, if this continues, does it mean there will be fewer shows -- or possibly more?

The WGA represents 13,000 writers. For sure, there are plenty of wannabe Hollywood writers.

The cliche is that virtually every citizen in Los Angeles has a movie or TV script -- and those who aren’t are working on one.

Will the idea of premium programming change -- or just how we get there? What will upfront programming look like a year from now? 

Still, premium? Maybe medium.

1 comment about "Writers Demand More Control In OTT World".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 15, 2019 at 9:23 a.m.

    Wayne, as I noted in my recent book, "TV Now And Then", when the broadcast TV networks turned to major Hollywood movie stars to headline their sitcoms and dramas many years ago, they suddenly found themselves paying their lead talents $40,000 or more per episode when the going rate for such performers had been $2500-6000. Once this became known the writers, directors and other unions demanded much higher payments as well and the result was a huge escalation in TV show production costs---which, of course, were passed on to advertisers. I suspect that this is the first sign of another round of tit fof tat cost escalations. But who will pay---advertisers or subscribers?

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