The Writer’s strike that has plagued the American television industry is over. Since November 5th 2007 more than 12,000 members of the Writer’s Guild of America in both its East and West factions downed tools in a protest over pay conditions. The crux of the argument was related to the residual earnings the writer’s make from the likes of DVD sales (and now other digital media such as the emerging download market).
On Tuesday a tentative deal was struck which means that all concerned can go back to work and many of the shows that were affected can slowly but surely return to some form of filming schedule. If you look at the actual gains the writer’s have made following their action, on paper some aspects seem fairly minimal. The DVD residuals have doubled, going from 0.3 to 0.6% of the first million gross of sales and for the first time the writer’s are getting payment for their work when it came to online media sales.
There was of course a certain eagerness to get things neatly tied up before the Golden Globes that looked like they might not actually go ahead this year up until the recent resolution. There were some who claimed that going on strike was potentially an unwise decision based on the fact that they were attempting to address a market that had not yet achieved maturity, in my humble opinion however surely it makes more sense to address these issues early so everyone involved knows where they stand on the road ahead.
The effect on the television industry has and will continue to be felt for some time. The making of a television show means the indirect employment of a lot of people, this strike has created nothing short of a ripple effect from the agents outwards. Whether that be agents, studio employees right through to on set catering.
From a viewer’s perspective fans of such shows such as Heroes and Lost that in the UK are both staples of the Sky network have found their respective season lengths trimmed with only eleven episodes of the latter in the can. There is a prospect of some of these shows getting back on schedule and having fresh episodes filmed over the summer period, potentially making the Autumn schedule.
However for some shows it looks like the strike might have signalled the death knell. For example no further episodes of NBC’s Bionic Woman are going to be made. Also a consequence of the strike is that shows such as 24 will more than likely not reappear on US screens till next year (which of course means we get the same delay, plus some). Elsewhere long standing shows like NBC’s medical comedy Scrubs will either get a straight to DVD tie up or potential a short eighth season.
Whatever happens thanks to the presence of new media initiatives, the landscape of how we view television and film is changing. Our choices are broadening and at the same time the potential revenue streams are increasing. The current settlement is in place for the next three years at which point it will once again be up for review. But how calm will the waters be until then?