Shows May Have Uneven Return from Writer Strike

Striking screenwriters are considering a proposed contract that would end their 12-week-long strike. It looks like voting on it could wrap up Tuesday and — if all goes according to plan — they could be back at work as soon as Wednesday.

But the television industry already has its sights set beyond that. Producers and studios are scrambling to pick up production and see how much of the TV season they can salvage.

Half-hour comedies are expected to get back on the air with fresh episodes faster than hourlong dramas.

And some serialized shows — like 24 and Heroes — might not come back until next fall because there won't be enough time left in the season to wrap up their complicated plots.

Writers to Vote on Strike Deal

Members of the Writers Guild of America are expected to vote Tuesday on a deal that will end the three-month-old strike. Alex Chadwick talks to Variety reporter Cynthia Littleton about the new labor agreement.

"This deal established the principle that writers will be paid for re-use of writing done for traditional film and TV on the Internet," Littleton says.

That means writers should now see some of the profits from advertising when a TV show is available on iTunes or through free Web streaming.

"A lot of the anger that fueled this strike came about because the networks have gone very far into making their programming available on their Web sites. Until now, there was no provision for the networks to pay writers for those reruns."

Little cautions that the deal is not going to benefit everyone just yet.

"For most writers, there won't be a giant windfall. The deal promises to allow some of the most successful writers and movies to do pretty well."

Ultimately, though, this was a fight about establishing the concept that writers will be reimbursed for the use of their work online, she says.

"What they see as a victory is that the principles are now in the contract, and as the new media business grows, they will monitor it on both sides of the table."

Even if the deal is passed Tuesday, however, the battle will likely erupt again down the line.

"In 2011, when they next negotiate a contract, it could also be very interesting. There could be a whole other round of fighting," she says.

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