From One WGA Member to Another - Why World Wide Pants is Good for All

In her story on the Worldwide Pants deal, Nikki Finke quotes an angry
feature writer who wants to go back to work now that a handful of TV
writers are going to get paid. I wanted to respond to his anger
because I believe this person is dead wrong in his objections to the
deal. Among other things, he claims that NBC/Uni's addition to the
GE balance sheet is a "rounding error."

As someone who worked on Wall Street before becoming a writer, I can
assure you that statement is nonsense. The Jay Leno show alone is a
guaranteed $50 million in profits. GE owns NBC/Uni for one reason
and one reason only: to make a ton of money. NEVER to lose money.
That's why Zucker fired Kevin Reilly in May. Somebody had to take
the fall for the network's performance, and Zucker, the
quintessential Peter Principle exec, made sure it wasn't himself.
But now there's nobody else to blame, and the $50 million from Leno
is getting flushed down the toilet. The Worldwide Pants deal just
turned up the burner under Zucker.

Just as important, ALL of GE's divisions are expected to make their
own profits and take care of themselves. A good year in one division
does not in any way "offset" a bad year in another division.
Divisions do not pick up the slack for one another, or prop each
other up. In fact, it is just the opposite -- they are rivals with
one another. That was Jack Welch's way of doing business, and it is
Immelt's as well. All this talk of deep pockets at GE helping NBC is
flat wrong. Anyone who says that would flunk out of the first
semester at business school.

And here's another thought for that feature writer: calm down and
look at the big picture. This deal is only the first domino to
fall. Next week the Guild might make a deal with a company like
Lionsgate, and then you and ten other feature writers can go back to
work. And you know something? The rest of us will be happy for you,
because we know our leadership just took a step closer to getting us
ALL back to work with a good deal.


Red Sox Fan


Jake said...

Red Sox Fan:

I'm not the angry features write from Nikki Finke's column, but my initial reaction was to be angry and slightly jealous that those guys at World Wide Pants would be cashing paychecks soon and all I'm doing is accumulating more debt. I'm a reactionary by nature and have on many occasions opened mouth without thinking first...

But then Howard Rodman took the trouble to explain things to me (and I really admire him as a writer, so I listened). And now you're doing the same from a purely business standpoint (which, I'll confess isn't one of my strong points).

And let me say that somebody like me (and I'm sure I'm not alone) can be pretty dense about these things and respond without thinking it through.

So now I get it.


Oh. One more thing...

Any idea when that Lions Gate thing might happen? I'd like to be first in line for work.

intrigued said...

Red Sox Fan,

Although your musings about GE are mostly accurate. The fact that the divisions inside GE operate seperately and challenge each other, has no bearing on investors! Investors buy 1 company (that being GE), so investors DO NOT CARE if NBC slips slightly as long as GE is still hitting its overall profit target! So there will no pressure from any investors on Zucker to settle this strike. Any pressure would have to be from Immelt and he already knows the stakes and you can bet Zucker is getting his marching from Mr. Immelt. So although you have knowledge of Wall Street and the inner workings at GE, you completely missed the point about this strike not affecting GE's bottom line (even if it does affect NBC's which is still not certain).

inc said...

Letterman and his cronies are worth a WGA waiver, but not the Oscars or the Globes? Am I missing something here?

Captain Obvious said...

I'm an unguilded (as of yet) feature writer like Jake here and I can say with certainty that I do not see this as a bad thing in the slightest. I'm happy both as a writer and as a long-time Letterman fan.

Give em hell, Dave!

Rodney Peterson said...

I don't agree that investors don't care if NBC slips a bit, but GE still reaches its overall profit target. If there's a nickel more to be made and it's not happening, then some of the investors will be unhappy. Probably their nature irregardless in some cases but moreso if some potential profit isn't realized.
The Letterman deal is the best thing that could happen right now for the clear headed reasoning that some writers are back to work and a possible precedent for more deals has been set. Not even major conglomerates are going to want to let their competition get a leg up and if one decides that it's in their best interest to strike a deal, others will follow. The conglomerates have way too much to lose if audience erosion permanently depletes the number of eyeballs watching television and yes going to movies. It's not like people don't have other choices if they simply get sick and tired of not having the conglomerates products for their main distraction and escape from life. Necessity is the mother of invention, and I daresay already some of the most coveted viewers-the smartest ones-have already discovered other means of occupying their time. Don't completely underestimate the customer. Obviously, the conglomerates would like to keep as many desirable viewers as possible. It would be a shame if their own stubbornness drove them to the depths of daytime TV, in which advertising aimed at the unemployed, uneducated and in some cases just plain shiftless became the major prime time viewers.

MrKlaatu said...

This is based on a faulty assumtion. The $50 million profit the Tonight Show earns will not go to zero. Leno is going back on the air, just witout writers. In fact, unlike Letterman's, Leno's show is not very writer-intensive, and will not be THAT different without writers (compared to Letterman). It's possible that a writerless-Leno will still beat Letterman in the ratings -- which would be a disaster for the WGA.

Hopefully SAG actors will not appear on Leno, but I fear most will.

Divide and conquer makes sense with the big players, but WWP??? I'm worried that this will only help CBS (who is the least diversified of he majors) weather the strike longer like it's competitors.

Caitlin said...

I personally think this could be an awesome thing, so long as it's played right. It HAS to be played right, because it will divide either them or you depending on whether it is or isn't. I'd adore to look back on this as the thing that started it all and ended the strike.

However, this is what, the fourth or fifth post convincing people this is a good thing? Be careful- you don't want to sound like you're trying to hard, or rather that you have to do so.

WGA 1997 said...

First, I wish Nikki Finke would stop being a tool. A "six figure" screenwriter told her that he was so angry that he was going to go fi-core immediately? Really? Well she should NAME the writer or, more importantly, name him/her three weeks from now when this writer doesn't actually follow through with the threat. Because, see, the things that people tell Ms. Finke have a habit of not actually ever happening... like the "framework for a deal" and the never-arrived "AMPTP" new media offers. Yet, Nikki continually uses these unnamed people to create a narrative of hopelessness, panic and distrust.

Second, the fact that the first side-deal has come from WWP (a TV company) is simply because they are the first to ask. The same deal can be/will be reached by independent companies on the film side and when that happens... some film writers will also start working. This is not ideal for us, but its better than just sitting around waiting for the AMPTP's pre-arranged end-of-strike-date... whenever that is. The suggestion that because WWP has reached this deal that this is a TV writers strike is so stupid as to suggest that the "offended" writer was just looking for an excuse to bitch and moan and preen.

hotline said...

If nothing else, Letterman will educate the public as to what's going on here...

Corporations busting unions and the middle class eroding as fast as the ice caps because of it. And again, most writers and members of other unions are middle class.

I'm not happy about no income. Every day that goes by I am losing money, but I support the writers on Letterman because I believe they will get our message out better and faster than any internet site.

But here is a thought to pacify the tiny percentage of writers who are unhappy about this - maybe the Letterman writers could donate a chunk of their pay to the strike fund? What do you think of that Letterman writers?

But again, personally I do support them if they get our message out.

R.A. Porter said...

Personally, I thought Nikki Finke's "angry feature writer" showed such an extreme ignorance about how business works that there was little point in caring what he had to say. Confusing a separate and independent corporation - WWP - for a division within a single corporate entity was the first clue.

My thoughts, even less polite than these, can be seen here.

intrigued said...

rodney peterson,

let me try to explain to you how the stock market works. investors by a stock because they like to profit potential the company has, as long as the company is making those profits they hold onto the stock. When they feel the company will not meet profits they sell the stock (when the investment community as a whole sells the stock it drives the price down). So it is irrelevent if there is another nickel to be made as long as GE is making their profit target their is no recourse for the investor because they are not gonna sell the stock as long as it is meeting their expectations! As the original author was hinting at, the pressure is internal from inside GE to squeeze that extra nickel out of the NBC division, but they are the very ones dictating strike policy.

So, to make this very simple, GE as a whole would have to have a significant impact on its corporate bottom line for their to be any pressure from the investment community. And since the impact to the NBC division is neglegible at this point (because of cost savings against the drop off in revenue) it isnt even a blip on GE's bottom line.

Caitlin said...

wga1997, I'm usually mostly in agreement with you, but I'm finding you to be a bit of a tool with those comments towards Nikki. Before, people were complaining about her getting hopes up. Now they're pissed that she's apparently doing the opposite. All this while many comments here are the most depressing outlooks I've ever seen. Nikki has a strong lean to the WGA, which is fantastic, but she doesn't work for you. If this person wanted to remain annonymous, she's going to let him be because she is, at least, acknowledging opposing views. Whether those views are right or wrong, she has a right to let them be voiced on her site. I certainly hope you're right, and suspect you will be. As for using unnamed sources in itself. . .not the best thing, certainly, but there's not a hell of a lot else to go off of for someone trying to cover this strike as much as she is. I can't say I'm always pleased with what Nikki's done, but I repect her. She's one of the few even somewhat notable and well-known sources that is clearly mostly on the writers side in this, and if you want everyone to be in this together, it would be nice for people to at least respect her themselves.

summer said...

Red Sox Fan, just as you see the deal through your former Wall Street eyes, I see the deal through my former Madison Avenue eyes - and I believe, with all my heart, that this deal is wonderful news for the WGA and all writers, because: there is another war going on here, one that involves the public perception of this strike...

Who's to blame for this strike?

Because of the Letterman deal, the public knows what it already suspected: the WGA leadership is reasonable, and the WGA can negociate and make a deal.

The public already believed the WGA leadership was right, and now the public is assured, again: the problem is NOT the WGA leadership.

This puts a big hole in the hype of the producers, who would like nothing more than to see public opinion sway to their side in this matter.

Writers need to stay united, and support this deal, and any other interim deals with producers.

The WGA leadership was right to negociate this deal. It scores a big win on the public relations front, and for all writers, because: when anyone goes on strike, they need to win a PR battle, too.

So, hang in there, writers: The public is with you. And, that fact DOES matter.

To producers who may be reading this: The Letterman/WGA deal is VERY bad news for each of you. Each day you people prolong this strike, the public blames you -- and loathes you and your greed. (And, the public is right.)

Scotty said...

Letterman and his cronies are worth a WGA waiver, but not the Oscars or the Globes? Am I missing something here?

You're missing the well-documented point that this is not a "waiver", it's a "deal". The entire point of the strike is to make an acceptable deal with the production companies.

Except collectively the AMPTP doesn't want to make a deal, so the WGA is going house to house. Not the preferred method, but it's a start.

One other point that keeps getting brought up is that Letterman going back on the air supposedly helps CBS and will prolong the strike.

First of all, it's just one late-night show. CBS still has a wasteland of a primetime schedule, aside from the return of their old mid-season standby Law and Order. Letterman's show alone won't "save" CBS.

Besides, the Late Show has been on the air thru the entire strike, in reruns. CBS has been selling ads the entire time, just like always. Sure, they're probably not getting quite as much dough from advertisers... but then the reruns weren't costing CBS as much as first-run episodes, were they?

I'm not going to claim to know the numbers, but I really doubt it's all that much of a goldmine for CBS just because Dave (and Craig) are coming back.

And they were being forced back anyway, just like the rest of the latenighters. Is it somehow worse that they get to bring their writers back with them, with a WGA-approved new contract ? I don't see how.

On the other hand, does anyone remember Dave's first show after 9/11? Or after his heart surgery? The guy stepped onto the stage and talked openly and honestly about why he'd been off the air, what he thought about it, how he felt, etc.

Craig Ferguson is also known to speak his mind at length if something's important to him. His "I won't make fun of Britney Spears because I'm a recovering alcoholic myself" monolog was a damn classic. (It's on youtube, look it up.)

and finally, from the Late Show writers stike blog, there's this:

"The writers can't wait to get back to writing for Dave, and you better believe we're going to bring attention to the strike as long as it lasts."- Justin Stangel

Unless all these folks have turned into somebody else during their two-month break, late night on CBS is gonna be the new must-see TV, as far as I'm concerned.

Josh said...

inc wrote:
Letterman and his cronies are worth a WGA waiver, but not the Oscars or the Globes? Am I missing something here?

Letterman/World Wide Pants isn't getting a waiver. They made a deal, agreeing to the WGA terms.

That's the whole point of this thing, isn't it?

embers said...

inc, to put what Josh and Scotty said more simply:
Letterman's production company negotiated a contract with the WGA which gives the writers everything they want. So he isn't getting any kind of waiver, he has made a contract that gives in to all the strike demands.

If the production company (network) putting on the Oscars wanted to negotiate with the WGA then of course they could (please God we all want them to)! But so far they are screwing the WGA by sticking with the AMPTP and they don't deserve any considerations. They will put on their show with anyone willing to cross the picket line, and I hope it is obvious how few people are willing to do so.

I also wanted to comment that I've heard strong suggestions that GE is getting ready to dump NBC, they've been thinking about this for a while and the strike may be hurrying that along. I think most of the studios and networks are being badly damaged by this strike, and they really should turn their backs on Nick Counter's game-playing and negotiate directly with the WGA.

Rodney Peterson said...

Thanks for the quick clarifier on the stock market. Also would like to clarify my comments regarding daytime tv are meant to describe mainly the segment of daytime tv viewers that watch off network daytime programming in which ads for quick degree sometimes fly by night vocational courses attorney accident settlement mortgage refinance ads and the like run ad nauseum not first run daytime programming such as talkers and soaps.

WGA 1997 said...


With due respect to your right to disagree, the issue is this... Nikki has been mislead a half dozen times during this strike and ALWAYS in the same direction. She is always mislead by someone peddling the AMPTP position and always in a way that causes her to wring her hands and say OH, DEAR GOD. Then, even when the AMPTP position turns out to be false... (Counter flatly refusing to negotiate during a strike... the framework for a deal being in place... the coming new media offer... now the "we're willing to let this season, pilot season and next season go" spin)... she continues to go back to her moguls without calling them on it. Look, if this writer CHOOSES to go fi-core, well... that's a story, but reporting an angry writer who doesn't understand his/her own strike under the rubric of "will the writer's guild implode?" is Nikki inserting herself as part of the story. She doesn't work for the WGA, nor should she. She works for the LA Reader and in that capacity I assume she aspires to be a REPORTER, not a water-carrier for anyone who will take her phone calls. She's been outright lied to... often and with purpose... when she starts at least acknowledging that, and holding those people up to the light, then I'll cut her some slack.

Scotty said...

heh, oops - before anybody has to correct my previous error (or already has, in which case it will show up in the next round of approved comments) - yes, Law and Order is an NBC show, not a CBS show. My mistake.

But I stand by the rest of my post. :)

buzzearl said...


Why or why are you posting here?
No one cares about your pro-AMPTP version of "The Street." Why don't you take your version of the market and give Jim Cramer a call? (A Big Boo-yah from Fabriani and Lehane's Headquarters in LA)

And one more thing: When GE reports its earnings, its going to have to give its "guidiance" going forward--whether they will make more/less money in the next quarter, or if the market for their product might be .. down or hit by the strike. According to Bear Stearns and Media Watch, it Jeffrey Immelt is guiding down: But rather than have you and your collegues from Fabriani and Lehane trumpet that tired old theme "the strike will have no impact on the networks or earnings" why don't you save it until GE reports?


Sangemon said...

There is another good reason why the WWP deal is a good idea. Howard Rodman touched on it in his Top 10 List, and I blogged on it here. The reality of this situation is that this strike will likely continue for some time to come, but eventually it will have to be settled. Eventually the writers will be back to work with some kind of a deal. Everyone knows this. What this WWP deal does is to set the bar for all deals to come. If the Guilds stick together they will almost certainly get at least as good a deal from the AMPTP as the one that the writers just got from Worldwide Pants. The DGA goes in a week from Monday to begin negotiations with the AMPTP on their next contract. Do you think that they will settle for less than what the WGA just got from WWP? What about SAG? What about IATSE? This is will wind up fracturing the AMPTP as long as the Guilds maintain solidarity.

intrigued said...



Sorry you dont like reality, but it is what it is!!!

You can trumpet all day long that you can bring pressure to bear on these giant congloms from investors, but it hasn't happened yet and it NEVER will. It's just the economics involved.

Now, with my limited knowledge of the entertainment industry, I will concede that there might be some small studios that can be pressured financially BUT the GEs and TimeWarner, etc just are too big and too diversified to feel any pressure from WallStreet on this!!!

intrigued said...


you are absolutely correct that GE has been considering for some time to sell off its NBC division. that is not a rumor at all. but that decision in totally unrelated to the strike (except for potential effect it could have on the selling price). NBC's profits has been sub-par for GE for sometime and that is the reason GE is evaluating whether to keep the NBC division.

Two things to note: GE WILL NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE SELL NBC PRIOR TO THE OLYMPICS (this is my opinion but you can take it to the bank). Given NBC's poor performance prior to the stike, GE most likely would like to see what the post-strike NBCs financial are before taking any action. (the strike actually presents an opportunity for NBC to re-establish itself, remember WallStreet will always forgive a short-term setback if it improves the long-term outlook)

JaMo said...

GE's stock is 60% institutional owned. They don't care about the Hollywood strike. We won't see much of a change in GE's stock. However, I do, and I'll be selling my measly 50 shares next week. Hopefully 40% of us will add up over time.

Harold said...

Red Sox Fan is correct that the $16+ BILLION in revenue and almost $3 BILLION in profit that NBCU contributed to GE's earnings is much more than a "rounding error."

But his comments are misleading.

1. There are no "guarantees" of profit. $50 million for The Tonight Show seems more reasonable for REVENUE, not profit, although it seems a little low. For example, "60 Minutes" advertising revenue is $110 million. Leno's salary alone is around $20 million. Anyone confusing revenue and profit "would flunk out of the first semester at business school" and is barely qualified to wait tables in New York, much less work on Wall Street.

2. NBCU's contributions of $16 billion in revenue and $3 billion in profit sound like a lot, right? Those are both about 10 PERCENT of GE's revenue of $160 billion and $26 billion in profit.

3. Red Sox Fan uses small money in an attempt to make a big point. $50 million in revenue for The Tonight Show is a small number when you try to find it in this one - $16,188,000,000. If $50 million was missing, that number would look like this - $16,138,000,000. Not much difference because 0.30% of a number isn't much of a percentage.

I have some doubts about a strategy that helps an entity that relies ENTIRELY on entertainment media (like Sumner Redstone's CBS/Viacom/National Amusements) in an attempt to put pressure on an entity that only has 10% of its revenue coming from entertainment media.

And for all of those people that continue to believe that institutional shareholders have even a tiny concern about this strike, read this to learn what the #1 stock market and economic issue is. Fund managers are more concerned with identifying credit risk in their holdings than anything this strike can offer.

The fantasizing needs to stop and reality needs to step in. The shareholders don't care. The government doesn't care. Public awareness is minimal, and their support is basically non-existent (hey, it's not like they stopped buying DVDs).

The advertisers - for the moment - will care. That's where the pressure has to be applied - as the WGA has done earlier.

The only question about GE is how big it's NBCU segment profit will be - not whether there is any.

thom taylor said...

Write to:

'mike@mikehuckabee.com' and

if you want to let the candidate and his wife know how you feel about him crossing the picket-lines on Jan 2nd.

VDOVault said...

GE has been hot to dump NBC Universal well before the writers strike. Why on earth they stepped in when Vivendi before it wanted out (and was stuck with it for so long) escapes me.

The fact that Immelt had to caution investors a few days ago about GE's earnings and explicitly gave one of the reasons behind the caution as being the performance of NBC-Uni should tell you something, especially when every other entertainment industry mogul has promised the same or better performance to their shareholders.

Look at how much turmoil there has been in who is running NBC over the past few years. Do you fire executives when a) your company is doing well and/or you believe the people in charge can deliver good or better results in the future or b) your company is doing badly and you believe your people in charge will keep delivering more or the same or worse?

And let me throw some real numbers at you courtesy of Yahoo! Finance:

Three months ago it would have cost you $42 for a share of GE. Today it trades at around $37 a share...That is a loss of $5 per share in only 3 months time.

Do you think that the investment institutions and mutual funds that hold about 59% of the outstanding shares are happy with a 12% loss in share price (ignoring for the moment what kind of hit dividends might take or that if there are profits that they will be lower than forecast because right now so few companies actually pay out dividends to investors)? Do you really think they won't either dump GE stock in favor of some other investment that is not losing money and/or further pressure Immelt to find a way to stop the losses especially when one of the sources of those losses, NBC-Uni, is known?

If you think most people invest with the expectation of losing money and that they won't complain when they don't win at the Wall Street craps table, then no one should ever give you any money to invest.

JimBob said...

"All this talk of deep pockets at GE helping NBC is flat wrong. Anyone who says that would flunk out of the first semester at business school."

Half-true. The AMPTP would flunk out of the first semester of business school right now because they are making short-sighted decisions, thinking with the small head in this pissing contest they've invented. The writers want a tiny slice of the profits in a world where re-use payments have been institutionalized for decades while the business grew and grew. Refusing to grant these small payments, throwing people out of work, alienating audience at a time when the business model is shaky -- all these things are what you're taught NOT to do. But since this testosterone-driven conflict is in fact being allowed to take place (slumbering investors, stockholders and advertisers have not yet made their strength felt), the rules of first-year-business-school are out the winder and these billionaires may well be propping up the entertainment side of their enterprise, at least for now.

VDOVault said...

Also a PS To Harold

If you swing by GE's website you will see that GE investors are also concerned about the GE Money/Finance and real estate holding divisions too thanks to the mortgage backed securities / CDO crisis (it is far more than just a 'mortgage crisis' now and has been so for months), so it's not like they need NBC-Uni to continue losing money on top of whatever fake profits GE and other finance companies booked overinflated mortgages at in the finance and real-estate holdings divisions.

intrigued said...


i notice you point a out a slight decline in GE's stock price. I wonder why you picked a qoute from 3 months ago instead of 2 months (when the strike started)? Oh u wanted to pick the price quote that reflected the 52week high. also you fail to mention that the DOW was down over that same period of time. money has been moving out of the market, not GE specifically. once again I will say that GE has already given its guidance as to the effect of the strike and they say they will meet all current expectations, further since you brought up dividends (which is the main reason institutional investors purchase these bigs comps), you should be aware that a couple weeks ago GE annoced a 10% increse in its regular dividend! There is no money being lost by any GE investors!

It is getting comical to me we are still discussing GE's finances. Last week, Fortune Magazine announced GE as one of its top 10 stocks for 2008!!! GE is solid and this strike will not effect ist bottom line at all, in fact GE expects significant growth over the next 18 months.

Harold said...

Most of the AMPTP stocks are down since 11/1, but so is most of the stock market overall. I don't think the strike is responsible for GE falling 6.65% anymore than it is responsible for Viacom shares rising over 8%.

Stock prices since 11/1 and the S&P 500 for comparison:

S&P 500

1,508.44 - 1-Nov-07
1,478.49 - 28-Dec-07



40.00 - 1-Nov-07
37.34 - 28-Dec-07


CBS Corp.

27.99 - 1-Nov-07
27.21 - 28-Dec-07


Viacom B-shares

40.41 - 1-Nov-07
43.86 - 28-Dec-07


Viacom A-shares (Redstone's controlling shares)

40.41 - 1-Nov-07
43.96 - 28-Dec-07



33.44 - 1-Nov-07
32.42 - 28-Dec-07


News Corp - B shares

22.44 - 1-Nov-07
21.29 - 28-Dec-07


News Corp - A shares

21.34 - 1-Nov-07
20.60 - 28-Dec-07


Sony Corp.

49.10 - 1-Nov-07
54.30 - 28-Dec-07


Time Warner

17.93 - 1-Nov-07
16.65 - 28-Dec-07


intrigued said...


what is truly interesting to me is that I have heard so many people on here talking about what a great deal this is for the WGA. but unless i missed something the details of the agreement reached by the WGA and WWP has not been released yet. blindly saying what a great deal this is without knowing exactly what the deal is WOULD BE FOOLISH AT BEST!

I see both positives and negatives from this move for the WGA (applying financial pressure on GE is not one of them) but I will reserve my judgment on whether this is a good move or not until a) I see the details of the agreement and b) what happens with the ratings / ad dollars once these shows return to the air.

Jack said...

The writers could have put up their own money, make their own decisions, and then they could pay anyone whatever they so choose. Instead they want to make demands and walkout until those demands are met from others that put up their money or whose jobs is hinged on making a profit. But the guild is spoiled. They are the millionaire version of the entitlement generation. I hope the studios simply put out a sign and say "We are Hiring"

Harold said...

thom taylor said "Write to:

mike@mikehuckabee.com and

if you want to let the candidate and his wife know how you feel about him crossing the picket-lines on Jan 2nd."


Huckabee is a Republican. The GOP isn't known for supporting labor unions.

Huckabee is not even in the top 3 in national polls. He needs all the national exposure that he can get.

I would classify this as another "doesn't hurt to try even though it's pointless" activity.

summer said...

Harold, IMO, you were incorrect when you implied the public doesn't matter right now, as you wrote:

Public awareness is minimal, and their support is basically non-existent...

The public does know about this strike, though the producers have already paid pollsters and consultants in an effort to lead you to believe no one in the public knows or cares. But the public does know, and does care, as other polls show.

You then go on to claim the "advertisers" are the only ones who matter.

Well, who do think the advertisers want to reach? Just you?

Public opinion equals pressure on these producers -- who stand to lose their clout with advertisers and others, if they can not deliver viewers and consumers.

Think about it...

kimmy2007 said...

When will it end? That is the question. Three weeks and all we get is both sides trading insults. Insults does nothing to bring anyone back to the talks. I guess now we wait until The DGA gets to negotiate their contract. It will be interesting to see what coems out of that, will it be the same? Trading insults and having temper tantrums? or will it be civilized like it should have been between the WGA and AMPTP. I think both sides should take a look at how they are acting, Like children who cannot get their way, You had a long enough time out, time to face the music and get a deal going before the whole tv season becomes about reality tv.

jimmy said...

This is not completely unrelated, but only mostly unrelated.

If you sit back and think about the kind of men Nick Counter and these moguls must be in order to sleep at night after they've done and said the things they've done and said...

The single greatest piece of evidence all the writers have that David Young, Patric Verrone, John Bownan and the negotiating committee members are competent, smart, and committed to getting writers a fair deal...is that they hate them.

They HATE them.

Nothing pisses off powerful, rich men more than less powerful, less rich men who can't be manipulated.

Why do they like Gil Cates and the DGA? Because he's fair but firm? Smart and savvy? Maybe. Or is it because he cut the notorious DVD deal with them many years ago that has put billions of dollars in their pockets when it forced the writers into the same agreement?


When Nick Counter comes out and says how much he respects David Young, you'll know the writers have caved.

Harold said...

Interesting excerpts from yesterday's NYT article:

"The agreement with Worldwide Pants is not likely to alter the overall balance of power in an increasingly bitter strike that has put some 12,000 writers out of work, shut down production of most television shows and will soon deliver much more reality programming to the country’s television viewers. Such interim agreements have been reached in the three previous writers’ strikes, including a five-month walkout in 1988."

"Mr. Burnett said the company had made no promises about making statements supporting the strike on the air."

"Nearly two weeks ago, in an attempt to break the united front of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the industry’s bargaining unit, the Writers Guild of America West and the Writers Guild of America East announced they would seek to negotiate with individual studios and network production companies."

"In an interview earlier this month, Anthony R. Segall, general counsel of the Writers Guild of America West, said the union was not eager to court separate talks with the hundreds of companies that eventually sign the master contract. 'Obviously, we’re not out to demand to bargain with 1,300 companies,' Mr. Segall said."

"The deal, though, has already aroused some bitterness inside other late-night shows."

We might "all be on the same page," but we're holding different scripts.

Nothing reveals the lack of planning and the bizarre improvisation of the WGA leadership more than the statement by Segall in early December and a complete reversal on it IN THE SAME MONTH.

Mr. Winship and Mr. Verrone,

1. Set priorities for what is needed in the final contract.

2. Negotiate according to priority.

3. Stick with ONE strategy at least a month, instead of changing course every week.


JaMo said...

GE is almost ALWAYS between 35 and 45 per share. Institutions hold on for a long time. They can and will deal with a few months of ups an downs - even though I doubt it has anything to do with the strike.

The Institutions call GE on secret shoe phones and ask if they have to worry about this little strike. GE says no. GE then calls NBC and is assured that with new reality shows around the corner everything will be fine. If not, writers will cave before too much longer. GE says good work. Institutions give out keys to private islands for vacations.

I'm absolutely for the WGA. I just think they need to get out of the AMPTP loop and start making more independent deals. This big business thing is bad for good movies and for writers.

I'm no expert. Just my thoughts.

Harold said...

summer said... "Harold, IMO, you were incorrect when you implied the public doesn't matter right now... But the public does know, and does care, as other polls show."

Read these words.

Most. of. the. public. doesn't. care.

And they never have.

Two days after the strike began (and during a period of the strike's highest media coverage), Pepperdine University did a survey.

Here's what it revealed:

1. 84% of those polled were aware that a writers strike had begun. Of these, most of those more likely to be aware were 65 or older. 18-24? Not so much.

2. 75% of those polled DID NOT CARE about it. Only 5% were "very concerned."

Since that period, awareness has declined. There has been more interesting things to occupy the news cycle than the strike. It didn't get that much attention to begin with (which made the 84% awareness somewhat surprising).

The public is putting pressure on no one. Overall viewership isn't down because of strike support. It's down because there isn't much on.

The public is still buying DVDs. It is still going to the movies. It is still going to watch American Idol in huge numbers on January 15.

I would be happy to be wrong about any of these things.

But I'm not.

B said...

I would have watched DL without his writers but this move just proves what I have always known: David Letterman is the smartest guy in the room. His out of pocket expense for this deal is probably less than he was paying before; the things he gave away are meaningless to him since he either has no control over them or doesn't work in them; when the AMPTP and the WGA come to terms that becomes his deal; he looks like a saint to the writers and he has a leg up on the competition.

Way to go, Dave. I have nothing but respect for you.

summer said...

Harold, Quoting a survey about public awareness that was taken “Two days” after the strike began means nothing. I don’t think I even knew about the strike a mere “two days” after the strike began.

As for your other assertions -- that “public awareness” is down -- you are expressing opinion. You’re not expressing anything to change the very real and important fact that public opinion does matter in a strike -- and, public opinion does exist in this strike.

I will agree that during a December holiday season most people are focused on other matters – and that’s another reason the Letterman/WGA deal is so great; it broke through the ho hum holiday/no news cycle for the public on this matter.

As for my assertions -- that a necessary PR war is being waged here, just as in any strike, and the producers would like nothing more than to sway public opinion to their side –- you might want to read this recent article in Variety, excerpted below:

…The WGA's been touting the fact that recent polls show the general public backing writers, such as last week's USA Today/Gallup poll showing 60% support among respondents. Kuwata said that he's seeing similar levels of public support in informal gatherings, such as his own family's holiday dinner.

For its part, the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers brought on political consultants Mark Fabiani and Chris Lehane a month ago as part of a reshuffling of the PR duties by the congloms. Since then, the AMPTP's become more active and assertive in its portrayal of its side of the battle with the guild -- such as responding to the USA Today/Gallup poll by posting a TNS survey that found the strike has made no impact on the viewing habits of 74% of respondents and that almost two-thirds don't have a side in the WGA-AMPTP fight.

So, you can say it doesn’t matter -- but it does. A war is being fought here on many fronts. Throwing up your hands in surrender because someone bought a DVD is not the way to win this war. Continuously engaging your fans, and putting pressure on all producers by making deals with individual producers is a way to get press -- and continue to keep the public on your side until you reach all of your goals.

PS Note to Jon Stewart and Steve Colbert: Maybe this is a good time for you two to buy out your own shows -- so you can own what you do, like Letterman owns his show. Then, you make interim deals with the WGA, too -- and continue to enjoy the love and respect of your fans...

B said...

As for NF - she spins whichever way works to increase traffic on her blog. She's still pulling down a paycheck, studios advertise on her blog, she's not the sharpest blade in the knife drawer but she does know what side her bread is buttered and she's not going to name any names.

Hurmoth said...

@Harold: I don't think it isn't that the public doesn't care, I believe they do. I am an average US citizen who doesn't belong to any union or faction, but I care, all of my co-workers and friends care. We still go to the movies because that's the last for of new entertainment (although the majority of the crap coming out of these studios is either remake after remake or sequel after sequel). What do you expect the public to do? Stop watching any form of written entertainment and go play video games or play football? Not everyone is a gamer or are into playing sports, that's why the majority of people watch sports while getting fat in the US. I think the majority of the public supports the writers, but they aren't willing to change their daily lives for the strike.

Jake said...

I find it interesting that NBC (and I imagine ABC too, though I haven't seen any promos yet) is toting the return of Leno and O'Brien and conveniently omitting the minor fact that they won't have writers.

Letterman/Ferguson and CBS haven't mentioned that they will have writers either.


The big question is, of course, will it matter? Outside of his monologues Leno can improv his interviews with his guests...and Letterman and Ferguson will naturally do comedy bits.

Will a viewing public notice if writers are on or off a show?

I wish that Letterman still had ascripted
show (like "ED") on the air, I think that would've been meaningful to the cause.

Dave said...

The best case right now for writers is Juno. It was exquisitely written, unlike much of what Hollywood puts out. If WGA could hop on that bandwagon (and not boycott Oscars where Juno I think will win something) they will increase public awareness a good deal.

scribeguy said...

Okay, I didn't plan to weigh in on this, but, as an ex-marketing underling for three large multinationals, I think a lot of you are missing Red Sox Fan's main point.

In all the many, ENDLESS meetings I had to sit through, it was drilled into us that each division or company was RESPONSIBLE for its own profits and revenues. No ifs, ands or buts. It didn't matter if the larger entity's stock was up or down or flat. What mattered was how you did within your division or company.

Oh, and BTW, each division or company was ALWAYS expected to make even more profit the next year! Excuses were not appreciated, and seldom tolerated.

So, if a formerly profitable division suddenly has "soft" earnings...or, horror of horror...losses, there will be some very hot conversations in the boardroom of that multinational, no matter how big it may be.

Furthermore--again as an ex-marketing guy--I'm at a loss to understand how the networks plan to convince advertisers who pay the rent that a prolonged strike and a shrinking desirable demographic of eyeballs are GOOD for those ad firms and their clients.

A lot may have changed in the last two decades since I ran off and joined the Hollywood circus, but not those two cold, hard facts of corporate accountability.

So talk about the relative value of GE stock all you want, Red Sox Fan has it straight. The "deep pockets" boogey man that a lot of people are trying to scare us with is about to be exposed as just another Big Foot. It's a myth.

Harold said...

summer said..."you might want to read this recent article in Variety"

Please don't cite trade articles if the topic is public opinion. Most of the public doesn't read the trades.

I can agree with you that there is a PR battle for public opinion going on. I disagree that there is a clear strategy behind it on either side.

The point of swaying public opinion is to convince them to TAKE ACTION of some sort. When presidents give a State of the Union address, providing a detailed status report on the state of the union is not their purpose. They make several calls to action. They request air time for other addresses and make calls to action. They record a radio message every week that contains calls to action.

They don't attempt to sway public support just to have it. They pursue it for a PURPOSE.

Which brings me to Hurmoth who absolutely nailed it on his last sentence.

Hurmoth said..."I think the majority of the public supports the writers, but they aren't willing to change their daily lives for the strike."

Well summarized, Hurmoth.

Tuesday is the Tournament of Roses parade. Fans4Writers.com is going to have FIVE messages skytyped above the parade. As many as 2 MILLION people on the ground may see it. Those watching on TV probably won't.

Fans4Writers says they're doing this "to express support for the writers, and the strike. It's also that there will be a million people on the ground, and this is a way to reach them directly. People that may not know about ways to support the writer's strike. The more people we drum up, and bring over here, the more we can do to show support, and hopefully help send the message to the AMPTP that the writers are supported in the strike by the fans, and the public. Something like that helps give the AMPTP incentive to really start negotiating for a fair deal."

I think the skytyping thing is great. Fans4Writers is drawing attention to the strike and attempting to gain support for the purpose of --


Do they want the public to flood AMPTP corp. switchboards? Do they want the public to write letters to Congress concerned about continued media consolidation? Do they want the public to buy more pencils (that can't be delivered)? Do they want the public to send pencils individually? Do they want the public to demand that AMPTP members be hauled before Congress as part of an investigation of improper collusive business practices? Do they want the public to dump their holdings of AMPTP stocks? Do they want the public to stop watching TV? Do they want the public to stop going to the movies? Do they want the public to only support independent films? Do they want the public to only stop watching reality TV? Do they want them to only watch The Late Show? Do they want the public to join writers on the picket lines? Do they want the public to disrupt the live American Idol shows? Do they want the public to disrupt tapings of ABC/NBC/Comedy Central late night shows? Do they want the public to boycott advertisers of select (or all) shows?

What is the frickin' PURPOSE?

I'm hoping that there is a purpose behind all of that effort. Support without a purpose is like having a billion dollars and not knowing what you want to buy with it.

Manu vegas fan said...

We do not want that "Las Vegas" comes cancelled or interrupted. Please you put all of agreement and to more soon it is for the good of the TV and of the cinema, it is for your good and ours.
(Sorry for my horrible english)
Emanuela (from Italy)

summer said...

Hi Harold, In reponse to my posted reply, you wrote:

Please don't cite trade articles if the topic is public opinion. Most of the public doesn't read the trades.

The topic of the cited article was the on-going battle for public support between the WGA and the AMPTP, as excerpted. Maybe you should read the article.

You also wrote:

I can agree with you that there is a PR battle for public opinion going on.

That's great: I'm glad we agree. In light of that agreement, maybe you could be a little more upbeat about the fact public opinion does count.

In addition, you said:

I disagree that there is a clear strategy behind it on either side.

Well, you're wrong on that count. I just wrote to Tom Gammill about an idea I had to help rally public support -- with a purpose. And, he loved the idea. Stay tuned to hear more in the upcoming new year.

(You see, some people are thinking of ideas to HELP the writers win this strike, instead of complaining that people buy DVDs or go the movies.)

Finally, IMO, you missed the boat on this score, when you said this:

The point of swaying public opinion is to convince them to TAKE ACTION of some sort.

The real point of swaying public opinion, and involving the public, is to convince the side you are striking against to take action that will benefit you.

But great ideas like the one I gave Tom Gammill will help a lot, too.

Thanks for chatting.

BTW -- the new post that is published today on this blog, by a writer, describing reactions of family members to the strike, is the kind of post you might want to consider contributing in the future. Find out what your family thinks of this strike -- and let us all know.

That helps rally more public support! :)

Jack said...

Our great union leaders are standing in the cold protecting our interest. They have inspired our signs and our songs. We will put an end to the freelance writer. The capitalists have oppressed us long enough. They have surpassed our wildest dreams with their daring. They have swung the public to our side. The man in the street knows our plight and sympathizes with our cause. Now, if someone will get their camera phone out we will put this on youtube and show those capitalists that we mean business

Infected by stupidity said...

Soooooo, although I am a new poster for these blogs, I have been watching and reading everything since October. I have a quick comment to make. I would say I have a quick question, but to be honest I really dont want to read the numerous and rediculous explanations. But anyway, I just read an article out of the LA times that discusses "Soap Writers", that discusses why some writers are leaving the picket lines and going back to work, and then there are the stories of "worldwide pants", and so on. You know, When the strike first started, I was convinced that the writers were acting very selfishly and irresponsibly in the actions they chose on November 5, and the months leading up to it. I have been angry at the guild as a whole, but now I reralize I have been wrong.
As much as I would like to blame the entire guild for the current status of Hollywood, it is obvious that you (the writers guild) have a bigger enemy than the producers and they are all on the same picket lines that you walk everyday. Actually, they are not on the same lines, because one by one they are trickling back into the work force when it suits them, and the "greater good" is given up for personal gain. I think the way the strike started with" Pencils Down", and all of the "solidarity speeches" was a good start, but it is obvious that your worst enemies are within your own walls and they are starting to hop over. Whats worse is that these same people are letting others sacrafice time, energy, and resources on a daily basis to walk lines and so forth, so that at the end of the day, they may get what they want at the expense of someone elses efforts.
Hmmmmm, when one dominoe in the row falls, how do you stop the others from tumbling after?

mheister said...

re: Mike Huckabee

The email addresses posted here did not work for me. The closest I could find is:


I'll be watching Letterman anyway.... :)

Captain Obvious said...

Harold: I thought the skytyping was a good idea, too. I think you're reading a bit into it, though, by comparing carefully-constructed political maneuvering with impromptu grassroots support from fans in this issue. I know it's just an idle analogy, though, so I won't pick at it.

Seems to me the skytyping is first and foremost a publicity stunt, and secondly an informational call-to-action. Depends on what some (or all) of the messages spell out.

Tire Workers of America said...

We, the people that make the tires that America drives on, salute the writer's in their quest for residuals. We would like you to know that we share your pain. We, the makers of tires, do not receive any residuals. People only pay once for their tires but then they drive on them daily and we do not see one red cent in additional income. This must stop. Do not tell me people own their tires. Do the purchasers of music CDs own them. NO. They cannot even put them on their computer. We would ask the writers to write our signs and lend us their jingles along with their mgt so we strike. We want to picket. We want our voice heard. We do not ask for much. WE just want a fair deal. 1/2 cent/mile driven.

Laeta Kalogridis said...

tire workers of america --

When your tires start giving you money every time you drive, you should definitely get some cash from that.

Writers, actors, directors and crew members all get residuals (although crew resids go directly into their pension & health fund) because when their work is reused, it generates money.

When you reuse your tires, they don't.

Hope that helps.

Captain Obvious said...

Laeta, you snatched the words fresh from the jaws of redundant Obviousness. I applaud you for saving me the trouble.

Josie said...

Scribeguy is right on, about the corporate bottom line. And when I worked in advertising, there was a bottom line in that industry, too: network ratings.

Since the strike, I'm guessing that TV viewing has been down overall, because viewers are getting tired of repeats.

And ad agencies are a lesser cpp and cpm, since there are less viewers. This has got to be killing the networks, who've had low audience numbers each year for the past ten or so.

That said, show writers should encourage their fans to write the networks' advertisers and let them know that they will not watch until the strike has been settled--in favor of the writers who make the shows worth watching in the first place.

Jacob said...

"Huckabee is a Republican. The GOP isn't known for supporting labor unions."
But Huckabee has actively sought union endorsements and has got a few (e.g. the New Hampshire NEA). As such, this is an area he would be vulnerable in.

"Huckabee is not even in the top 3 in national polls. He needs all the national exposure that he can get."
Wrong. Huckabee has the highest support in national polls.

Harold said...

"Wrong. Huckabee has the highest support in national polls."

I stand corrected. He has had a huge recent increase in support. Whether he is #1 or not, doesn't necessarily matter - being in the top 3 is good enough.

This recent (today, I think?) AP poll puts him in the top 3 too.

"Huckabee has actively sought union endorsements and has got a few (e.g. the New Hampshire NEA)."

I didn't think much of the two or so that he has received. In one case, he almost received an endorsement by default because he was the only Republican candidate to show up.

BUT he has received two or so endorsements and he is pursuing them, so I stand corrected here as well.

Thanks for the post, Jacob.

ehollo said...

I will say about this writer's strike quite frankly that each of the big major American stations like: CBS and NBC are in verge of being sold out (by a single person or an investor)and that would not be good for the American television industries. Just because television writers/WGA are on strike right now, and there are no end in sight, there needs to be an emphasis to put upon on the television industry itself. Writers are the backbone of the best television for many golden years of past and present time.