In order to play fictional comedy writer Liz Lemon on the hit comedy “30 Rock” real comedy writer Tina Fey needs actual comedy writers, from the Writers Guild of America, to script her jokes. But since November 5, the entertainment writers’ strike has prevented NBC (GE), which broadcasts “30 Rock” and “Saturday Night Live” among other comedy shows, as well as the other TV networks and Hollywood movie studios, from having any fresh material to work with.
But yesterday, union leaders voted to end picketing and to return to work as early as Wednesday, pending a full union-vote on Tuesday when the WGA’s 3,500 members are expected to approve a new three-year deal with all major Hollywood studios including CBS Corporation (CBS), MGM (6758), NBC Universal (GE), News Corp/Fox (NWS), Paramount Pictures (VIA), Sony Pictures Entertainment (6758), the Walt Disney Company (DIS), and Warner Brothers (TWX). A resolution would be especially timely for the February 24 annual broadcast of the Academy Awards, which might now be filled with professionally written jokes.
This negotiation has been a tough one for the writers but the compromise looks to be a fair one for them. Jack Kyser, chief economist at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. (LAEDC), estimates that the strike has cost the writers $278 million—and that’s only counting Los Angeles—in lost wages since the strike began. By comparison, the cost of the writers’ original three-year proposal was $151 million. However, under the deal, for content downloaded or streamed online for free, the writers would get $1,200 a year, at most, for each of the first two years. After that, they would get 2% of the distributor’s gross revenue. As for movies and TV shows sold online, the writers’ share would double. Given the potential for revenues to be made from new media, the writers seem satisfied.