Writers Seek Piece of Digital Pie in New Contract
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
Gloria Hillard reports.
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JOHN BOWMAN: This is something that I never would have foreseen happening a few years ago, but now they're on multiple platforms - television and the Internet.
HILLARD: John Bowman is a veteran writer in Hollywood. He also chairs this year's negotiating committee for the Writers Guild. He says writers getting paid for when their works appear online or your iPod will be the key issue in the contract talks.
BOWMAN: TV writers have a very good rate when it's on cable, and we have a very good rate when it's done on broadcast TV. But they're paying us at this very small rate when it goes to the Internet. And generally, 20 to 50 percent of a writer's income is derived from the re-use of his material. So you can understand why writers are up in arms.
HILLARD: If the writers are up in arms, the producers have their arms crossed. Nicholas Counter, the president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, says when it comes to digitally delivered entertainment...
NICHOLAS COUNTER: We are uncertain as to what the revenue streams are and what the costs are going to be. And what we are going to propose is that all those new media outlets for television and theatrical motion pictures be studied.
HILLARD: In the meantime, Counter acknowledges the networks are preparing for a possible writer's strike by speeding up productions and ordering more reality programs.
COUNTER: Because they are strike-proof. And so those are kinds of things that the studios and the networks are planning as we speak.
HILLARD: The networks have also asked some producers to deliver extra episodes of popular shows in case there is a strike. Carolyn Finger is vice president of TVtracker.com, a consulting firm for the industry.
CAROLYN FINGER: Dick Wolf has never been shy about acknowledging - he's the, you know, obviously, the creator of the "Law & Order" series of shows. And he's always been very upfront about we'll do extra episodes. We'll shoot on an accelerated schedule. And then also the show runner for "Las Vegas" - also, they skipped the hiatus.
HILLARD: For NPR News, I'm Gloria Hillard.
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