We believed the AMPTP when they cajoled us to accept the cable deal in 1981 with the understanding that when they stopped rerunning old black and white shows and started making serious money they would take care of us.So while history certainly provides ample reason to be circumspect about the AMPTP's predictions and promises about new technologies, Russnow points out that it's incorrect to make a one-to-one comparison between prime-time reruns and online streaming:
We believed the AMPTP when they cajoled us in 1985 to accept the definition of gross to be one fifth of the monies they received, because the VHS industry was new and those cassettes were expensive to make. When it became really profitable they would take care of us.
Well, they did become profitable, even more so when they switched to DVD and its much cheaper manufacturing costs. And of course, the cable industry grew and grew as it became more and more the norm for shows to rerun directly from their original traditional network home to cable networks like USA, Lifetime and Arts & Entertainment, and the ad rates for those new rerun shows soared through the roof.
And guess what, they didn't change the payment formula. [...] And now there's the Internet and all its possibilities, some of which are already here.
[N]o one's suggested that either $20,000 or the $12,000 prime-time network residual fee that half-hour shows receive should be paid for reruns transmitted on the Internet. When the Internet replaces broadcast and cable as the main source of original programs and reruns the fees should more accurately approach the amounts writers, directors and actors receive in syndication, which are significantly lower than the prime-time rerun rates. These monies are in the low to mid-thousands for subsequent runs and descend in value as rerun usage increases until the payments are in the hundreds of dollars.Hopefully, both sides in the current informal talks can acknowledge that new technologies need new thinking and new payment structures. Check out Russnow's full piece for his thoughts on why the composition of the DGA and WGA memberships lend themselves to different deals and, to my knowledge, the first strike metaphor based on Charles Schulz's "Peanuts." (Who's the Red Baron in all this?)
I'm also not saying we must absolutely have the syndicated rate, and perhaps it's time to recognize the vast dissemination of viewing possibilities. Just as there are many, many more cable networks than there are over-the-air channels, the Internet possibilities are infinite, yet it's clear that in the future a relatively manageable number of dot.com networks and film companies will dominate.
Let's have a formula that is meaningful and reflects the true worth of AMPTP afterlife profits, rather than the pitiful amounts they propose... .