Laughing All The Way

By Ed Decter (WGA member, Pet Rock owner)

Long ago, in the era before digital streaming and video on demand, I was one of those kids who saved his allowance and bought a Pet Rock. I remember my father putting on his bifocals to examine the cardboard box with the built-in handle, the little nest of straw and the egg-sized gray stone. My dad sighed then said, “The guy who thought of this is laughing all the way to the bank.”

If my dad were still alive, he would be following the progress of our strike very closely; not just because his son is a screenwriter, but because he was always skeptical that those in power would abuse that power (I guess being in the first United States Army division to cross the Rhine made an impression on him).

My dad read two newspapers cover-to-cover every morning. He would have certainly seen the article about how the WGA strike has resulted in a huge boost in ad rates for American Idol. Fox is now charging about a million dollars for a thirty second spot on Idol. This rate isn’t for the FINALS, just a regular weekly episode. After reading the article my dad would have called me and asked, “How many thirty second spots are there in an hour of television?” I would have replied that on average there are about eighteen minutes of commercials per hour.

My dad, who was a businessman and very good with numbers, particularly as they related to the “bottom line,” would have estimated that each hour of American Idol was grossing 36 million dollars for Fox. The two hour episode that aired last night might have brought in 72 million. I would have then explained to my dad that those ad rate figures were just the tip of the iceberg. The Idol show also serves as an advertisement for CD sales, live touring shows, and tons of Idol-related merchandise (even on the Internet!).

I imagine my dad would have asked me who the “guy in charge” at Fox was. I would have told him the guy’s name is Peter Chernin. My dad would have said, “He must be laughing all the way to the bank.”

Peter Chernin must be a lot smarter than the chairmen of the other conglomerates. He must have about a hundred IQ points on each of them. How did he convince Les Moonves to “hold the line” and do without new CSI episodes while handing Fox the biggest ratings win in history? How did Chernin spin Iger on shutting down the Grey’s Anatomy juggernaut so that WGA-less Idol could run free of any competition? What did he say to Jeff Zucker? Did he assure Zucker that Howie Mandel is every bit the ratings equal of Simon Cowell?

Apparently, according to my Google search, a guy named Gary Dahl invented the Pet Rock. In the world of sales Gary was an amateur. He just dreamed up a product and made a bunch of money. If Gary were truly a captain of industry he would have also convinced the manufacturers of hula hoops, Slinkys and Tonka Trucks to STOP MANUFACTURING THEIR TOYS so that the public could ONLY buy Pet Rocks.

That’s why Gary Dahl could never be chairman of Fox. He’s no Peter Chernin.

So, Les, Bob, Jeff, just know that when Peter Chernin is at the bank cashing his billion dollar profit checks, he’s not just laughing at the WGA – he’s also laughing at the three of you.


jimmy said...

Let's hope that it is this very dynamic that is pinching the AMPTP to make a fair deal before their shareholders and board members start to seriously question their motivations.

And let's the hope the DGA knows they have the upper hand.

Fred said...

Want to really shatter the AMPTP? The WGA should congratulate Fox for taking our advice, sugget that there was some sort of secret deal between Fox and the Guild. Then watch the studios eat each other.

Anyone who's watched "LA Confidential" or "Homicide, Life on the Streets" knows how to set members of a criminal conspiracy against one-another. Hint that there is a rat in the AMPTP and watch them kill each othr trying to find out who it is.

Devon said...

Although fox must be making a ton of money off of Idol now, that seems more a boon for Simon then anyone else (I Believe he retained all sorts of ownership rights to the show). I can't imagine Fox isn't coming out, on the whole, worse off. Which makes it all the more baffling why they all continue to resist negotiation. The writers should take this time to ask for even more! like having all their scripts printed on vellum .

actorinsupport said...

TV Talent Still Come From Hollywood, Not Internet
by Tim Goodman

Please look up the above article. I've no way to paste it. Might be worth you posting!

reasonable said...

Fred said...

Want to really shatter the AMPTP? The WGA should congratulate Fox for taking our advice, sugget that there was some sort of secret deal between Fox and the Guild. Then watch the studios eat each other.



mheister said...

Ed -

Great post!

Last Wednesday in the comments section of this blog, I said, "Jeff Zucker should be significantly more motivated in a few weeks to break ranks with Peter Chernin, as he realizes Fox is using the strike (they're sitting pretty with American Idol and more scripted stuff banked) to play NBC like a chump." http://unitedhollywood.blogspot.com/2008/01/la-times-writers-strike-is-war.html

Fox's position vis a vis the other networks is a fairly obvious point to make (there was an article in the LA Times I think about how the various networks were positioned for the strike last month), and I hope we echo-chamber it right to the front pages of Variety & The Hollywood Reporter as well as the business section of the LA Times.

As a SAG member, I have no problem with playing these guys against each other like they try to play the guilds.

foster said...

Slightly off topic, but i felt it was worth sharing. A retired Producer friend of mine (not affiliated with the amptp) who went to Business School told me that the first rule in Business Contract Law under the chapter "Striking"...NEVER, NEVER STRIKE AN INDUSTRY....STRIKE A COMPANY. That's page 1 of business contract law...the wga leadership has made a fatal error according to Undergraduate Business Law...go back to college Verrone!!

jimmy said...

foster...what are you talking about?

it is the amptp structure that forces any strike to be against multiple companies, and not a single one.

the wga would LOVE to be able to only strike certain companies. they can't because of the amptp.

symmons2 said...

foster, you couldn't be more correct!!!! pat v thinks he is abby hoffman in the flesh. the wga leadership has went about this all wrong, to bad the rest of the wga has not seen this. you don't walk into a bank, acting like a grease monkey, using four letter words and expect to get money. look at the dga, they are doing it right, and if you don't like the contract that they produce, pat v will jump around like abby once again.
please end this strike!!!!!!