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Writers vs AI

Writers vs AI

Last week, after five months of striking, the Writers Guild (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) reached a tentative agreement. “We can say, with great pride,” the WGA wrote , “that this deal is exceptional — with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership.” 

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Wins

Wins

The WGA did secure a couple meaningful gains. As in two. First, there is now a minimum staffing requirement for writers rooms, which translates to more employment opportunities for young writers. Second, they’ve raised the minimum number of weeks studios must employ writers for shows. In other words, work lasts longer. These concessions are meaningful and reflect well on the guild’s commitment to investing in the craft and nurturing talent.

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The first step to solving any problem

The first step to solving any problem

This whole process, however, was a distraction from what the writers, actors, and all workers in the creative community should be focused on. Henry Kissinger once said of my industry: “The reason that university politics is so vicious is because stakes are so small.” The same holds true in media.

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Prologue

Prologue

Last week I spoke with a group of Hollywood executives and writers. (I’m trying TV for the sixth time .) They were concerned about the strikes — but more concerned that their stalwart, the House of the Mouse, has transformed into a distressed asset practically overnight. Disney stock is at a nine-year low. Subscriber losses continue to mount, with a 7.4% decline in Disney+ subscriptions in the most recent quarter. Operating profits from the cable assets have been halved, and the company’s operating margins are down 75%.

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Think bigger

Think bigger

The writers can keep fighting for a larger slice of the pie, but the pie gets smaller every day. The WGA will have 15 milliseconds of fame before it starts digging through the rubble searching for remnants of its industry. The question they should ask themselves: What would a “meaningful gain” actually look like, & how do we achieve this? Is it really a 6% pay bump? More transparent residuals? A staffing minimum for writers rooms, striking against impaired companies? To achieve a truly exceptional outcome, the writers, the studios, the executives — everyone must do one thing: Think bigger.

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Great or not

Great or not

When I was on the board of The New York Times Company, two thirds of revenue came from ads. During the print days, it worked — we had strong control over distribution and could price ads on terms that made sense for the business. Then Google offered us what looked like a good deal: Let us crawl your content, and we’ll drive traffic to your website in return. More ad views, great right? Spoiler alert: not great.

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