The monster that ate Hollywood

I’m a little shocked that the writers strike has dragged on so long (five weeks and counting). Talks have now broken down:

The breakdown is the latest turn in what has become one of the nastiest labor disputes in recent Hollywood history. It comes after eight days of contentious negotiations that yielded very little, if any, progress.

The sides remain deeply divided on how to split up new media revenues as digital technology and the Internet transform the way entertainment is delivered to viewers.

Aha! There’s your culprit:  new media.

“The industry is at a crossroads,” said Sidney Sheinberg, former president of Universal Pictures’ longtime corporate parent, MCA Inc. “Fear is a great motivator here on both sides.”

Writers fear being shortchanged as the studios rush to distribute their TV shows and movies on the Web, cellphones, video iPods and other devices. They sharply disagree with studios over how much they should be paid when shows are sold and reused online or created specifically for the Web.

“I’m not going to be the chairman of the negotiating committee that gives away the Internet,” said the guild’s John F. Bowman. “There’s an enormous burden of history here.”

The studios, confronted with dwindling DVD sales and rising production and marketing costs, say they are concerned about committing to the guild’s new-media pay demands when the economics of the Internet and other digital technologies are unknown.

There’s a lot at stake here. New media could become the monster that ate Hollywood.

A continued walkout won’t affect only the 10,500 writers on picket lines, but also thousands of other workers — from crew members and actors to talent agents and studio office employees. …

Virtually all scripted TV shows are expected to stop production by next week, causing a loss of 15,000 jobs and costing the Los Angeles economy about $21 million a day in direct production spending, according to one recent estimate.

I watch very little TV, but I really miss Jon Stewart right now. I would really like to hear his take on Romney’s major speech this week (Vote for me, I’m religious; but if you hold it against me that I’m a Mormon, that’s not fair).

My sympathies are with the writers. The big corporations always find a way to make a profit. Writers deserve a slice of the new media pie:  even Jon Stewart wouldn’t be half as funny without them.



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