Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I'm watching the WGA malarky across the pond with interest. Mainly because the issues at stake affect TV writers everywhere. The top ones being DVD sales and Internet streaming.

I say TV more than features because, as discussed with a mate the other day, many feature writers in the WGA make a good living writing stuff that never makes it to the screen so those issuses are largely moot other than for the 30 or 40 regularly employed screenwriters getting films made.

I can't remember when the last PACT agreement was ratified, but I know it was several years ago, and certainly before the advent of Broadband for the masses. So, whatever is finally negotiated over there could and perhaps should be the benchmark our own sweet WGGB should be aiming for.

Of course without the benefit of a closed shop, whether the WGGB can negotiate anything worthwhile is open for debate. Having said that, the BBC's minimum 5.4% or whatever [it's a long time since I've seen a contract] on DVD sales seems pretty good in comparison to the WGA 2% of 80% or whatever it is. See how up on detail I am?

In a week where TV-Links was raided and closed, this shows how seriously the big boys are taking the issue. That means there must be money involved. And I'm not just talking about potential lost sales of DVD's. For example, Channel 4 have a system where you 'buy' a progamme for 50p or a quid, get to down load and keep it for a week, then it wipes? So I guess you don't actually buy it, you rent it. Sites like TV-Links are potentially depriving them of that revenue if you can watch for free anytime on your browser.

I don't know how much, or if at all, the writer sees of that fee, but I'd be interested to know.

I think it is obvious that the potential audience for a show are not nowadays all willing to sit down at the same time every week to watch it. Many like to watch it when and where they choose, and even better on sites like TV -Links where there are no adbreaks.

I think this is being realised and the networks know this is the way much of their output will be watched in the future. Witness the vast sums the BBC are spending on researching internet platforms. The major problem the networks have is policing the internet. It is human nature that if you can get something for free then why pay for it? It is up to the networks to come up with a solution for this, so I don't intend to give it any more thought. Largely because I am an ignorant technophobe.

But though this particular battle for a share of the cake is currently being fought several time zones away, this writer global village of ours will reverberate with the result.

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