A Modest Proposal: Hello, Google!

From writer, director, producer, and WGA member Ed Decter.

Does anyone know someone high up at GOOGLE? Out of all of our members, someone had to go to Stanford with one of the Google guys.
Google could save us.

The 220 billion dollar corporate juggernaut is proof that there is money to be made on the Internet. We don’t need any “further study” to determine this. Google was founded on intellectual property that changes the way we see the world – which is exactly the business we are all in. Why don’t we cut out the middle men (the AMPTP) and deal directly with Google? Send Patrick and the negotiating committee to create a deal where we can all write projects for Google (with all guild minimums, health, pension, etc.) and we get the digital use rates we are seeking (a percentage of the ad revenue) that is generated by the projects we put on YouTube. Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz recently did a series that aired on MySpace. That particular entity is owned by Fox, so we don’t like them. But nobody owns Google.

Maybe the Alliance is right. Maybe the ad revenue for a new internet series on Google would be minimal. That would mean the creators of the content wouldn’t make very much money. But maybe the Alliance is lying and the creators would reap huge rewards. Think how many clips of THE OFFICE people have watched on the internet. What if a brilliant comedian like Steve Carell and a phenomenal showrunner like Greg Daniels got paid union rates to create a show directly for Google? Do you think advertisers would stay away from the content because it hadn’t aired first on NBC? Does the AMPTP know that for the first time since the advent of television, college students are no longer bringing TV sets to campus? They are getting all their entertainment directly from THE INTERNET. Only the networks think we need the networks.

As na├»ve as this all sounds – wouldn’t this be the DEEPEST FEAR of the AMPTP? If Google wanted, they could scoop up THE ENTIRE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY. We are all available. Why do you think Sumner Redstone pulled all of the Viacom content off YouTube? Why did Jeff Zucker pull all NBC’s content from iTunes? Other corporations were making money from the content that Viacom and Universal owned – and that we created.

If Patrick and the negotiation committee actually got on a plane and flew up to Mountain View (world Google headquarters), that could be the first step into forcing the Alliance to make a deal.

So those of you who have Google friends – get them on the phone with Patrick and the negotiating committee. We don’t have to wait for Nick Counter to make a deal, let’s make a deal of our own.
Ed Decter


Anonymous said...

Right on!

AMPTP can take a hard line ONLY if they are the only game in town. With studios becoming less and less necessary for production and distribution of content, why shouldn't we look elsewhere for a better deal?

If the Internet is 'too new' for the studios, then we should leave them in the 2Oth century where they belong.

Star Killer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robin said...

There's a kind of mad genius to this.

Anonymous said...

I actually made a similar suggestion in the bwe comments section yesterday.

You should all just hop over to funnyordie.com and open up your own channels like Judd Apatow, Wil Ferrel and Adam McKay.

I'd even pay a subscription to be able to watch it.

Anonymous said...

I'd watch my favorite shows on google instead of TV. That would actually be better. The showrunners ould have more creative control...no pesky guidelines for what can be shown and at what time and what words can be used when blah blah blah...

Go for it!!!!!

Star Killer said...

Best. Idea. Ever.

Direct distribution FTW!

(I've been an advocate of this kind of idea ever since I first read this article.

Anonymous said...

I've heard variations of this idea discussed by a number of writers. Some of the bigger names are actively looking into it. The companies say that new media isn't a profitable way to distribute entertainment...independent projects are the only way to prove them wrong.

Todd Jackson said...

Or even better, Apple. iTunes is already a distribution system that works. An independent TV show on iTunes with top writers and talent would do amazingly well.

NBC is already taking their ball and going home, others may follow on iTunes. So Apple doesn't have to keep networks like them happy anymore. They can go directly to the source.

I imagine profitability would be questionable at first. But somebody just has to make the bet and take the risk - they could open up the system to greater rewards than a residual.

Tom Tennant said...

Will Farrell, Adam McKay and Judd Apatow are probably reeling with all the money their losing via FunnyOrDie.com. C'mon, everyone knows the Internet is a losing proposition! :)

Go for it! I'll watch!

Tom Tennant said...

... That would be they're losing ... And I call myself a writer ...

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, what money is there for them to lose?

It's not lik these are epic motion pictures. There's not a lot of production work/ set design/ costuming involved in their shorts. Or, I would imagine, in their pants.

Chief_Reindeer said...

Brilliant idea! - No one watches first-aired TV. Except my Grandma. - If I don't get time to watch it on Tivo/DVR, I just watch it online at work (where the connection is suh-weet and the time is paid) or iTune it. - The studios know what they are doing. If they didn't, NBCU and Fox wouldn't be hulu'ing right now. - Strike on, you crazy cats. Strike on!

Anonymous said...

I would definitely watch on Google over TV. Actually, whatever the WGA decides, that's where I'll be watching. The thing is, TV really isn't that convenient, which we all know is a BIG thing in America. I love The Office, but being home at 9 PM on a Thursday night is hard for me. Until the strike is over, I will be watching on TV and NOT on the internet, but I'll tell you what, it's not nearly as convenient as google would be.

curtis said...

http://www.webserials.com... I write music for them, I'm sure they'd love some interest from WGA members

Anonymous said...

It might be interesting if there was an infrastructure in place.

curtis said...

Actually, here's a real live link instead of something to copy-paste:


They are a completely independent entity producing serialized shows for the web, and were recently feature in the LA Times as a good destination to go to if the WGA strike killed off TV shows.

This isn't meant to be spam, but a serious call for collaboration from any WGA members who would be interested.

Keep fighting the fight!

Anonymous said...

If you get Google to buy your content, they probably won't do it at union rates. The marketplace will eventually Wal-Mart you down to where eventually it will be cost prohibitive to produce the very content you want to sell. You will accomplish destroying the studios (which deserve it), but you'll also aerosolize your base of power by which to negotiate contracts, and ruin whatever living you and everyone else who works in the industry makes. Unions can only exist in the face of large corporate entities who wish to exploit labor. If there is no exploitation of corporate labor, then there's no need for a union, and everyone is left to fend for themselves.

The internet is not only changing how things are getting distributed, but how they're getting created. As if content weren't already commodified, it's being moreso now, and thus, worth less to everyone involved, including the viewer. Looks what's happened to the music industry. The old distribution system is effectively destroyed, and content is so voluminous (and most of it is utter crap) that nobody wants to pay for it. Think Radiohead: most people paid $0.

Anonymous said...

Right on Ed.

I left this EXACT idea on Nikki Finke's webblog two days ago. I suggested that not only does the WGA do a deal with Google (of I suggested Bill Gates) but we guarantee no competition because we drag our feet indefinitely with the studios, until they BEG us to come back to the table.

Anonymous said...

So the current shows we have on tv would basically be trashed? Don't the studios own all of our current shows? We'd never be able to see them on google, right?

They still need to somehow reach a deal with the AMPTP if I'm ever going to see what happens between Meredith and Derek...

Alexander Stuart said...

I totally agree, and wrote something similar on my website, suggesting that the Guild use viral videos from the likes of the SNL team to spread its message, rather than just relying on picketing.

Google's cool (aside from a few testy areas with China), and who needs TV? We're raising our three-year-old with the Waldorf/Steiner/no TV/no computers approach, and it's fantastic.

In fact, our plasma screen died about a month ago and we haven't even replaced it yet - but we have watched a few Mad Men episodes on iTunes! I would miss email and the web a zillion times more than TV, if one of them were to disappear.

PS I do still love movie theaters, but maybe Google can buy a theater chain.

Unknown said...

Let me add: The writers just want a PERCENTAGE of sales. If the internet isn't making any money, then writers get a percentage of NOTHING. All they want is their fair share of profits, should the internet be a bonanza (which we all know it will). And while we are at it, let's stop paying Direct TV, Time Warner Cable, and all the other providers for an extra service (cable and DVR) that we can easily get over the internet (pay per view streaming). My 47" LCD flat screen works just as well on my computer as it does on my cable box.

Anonymous said...

And the feature writers, guys?

Do they matter in this at all?

Maybe we can right serials?

Movies are immune to the internet. Wide screen survived TV. Survived color. And will survive this.

But it's not fun to listen to TV writers talking about jumping the fence while feature writers are out there with them on the lines.

CharlesFosterKane said...

I didn't know if you've this video that's been floating around.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the other anonymous commenter. I know you guys have to do what you have to do, and forgive me for sounding selfish. I support the writers, but I want my shows to come back. I'm not ready for new shows.

Anonymous said...

Sure, we all may be more liberal artsy than mathy, but Radiohead's album averaged $6 from those who voluntarily paid and $2.62 from all downloads. Both of these figures, by my estimation, are greater than $0.00

While semantically speaking, sure more people paid $0.00, but the money was still made. A full 39% of the people who downloaded the album paid for it. That's no small minority.

Those in America were actually more likely to pay than those in other countries, and the amount the Americans paid averaged at $8.05, compared to a foreign average of $4.64.

And this was where people could pay nothing. You obviously wouldn't set it up the same way, as Radiohead's venture was more of a behavioral study than one of the marketplace.

Anonymous said...

LOVE the concept.

But Google would be a better option for the viewers, since Google would be worldwide distribution, as opposed to the iTunes model of separation by national boundaries.

Lots of folks outside the states are already miffed that we dont get to see the "promotional material" currently available because we're a half hour north of the US Border.

Anonymous said...

That is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. What the hell would people do with their giant flat screen LCD TVs? Would people just throw them out?

TV belongs on TV!

Catherine Butterfield said...

Doesn't have to be Google. We could contact Steve Yang at Yahoo.(Although those guys seem to be embroiled in that China scandal right now.) I started having some of the same thoughts as I listened to Marshall Herskowitz on NPR this morning.

Anonymous said...

A deal with one company wouldn't give anybody on the creative side of things any leverage in the long haul -- it would just quickly revert to the same situation we have now: the content aggregator controls the portal of distribution, and therefore sets all rates.

What we need to look for, is independent production with multiple avenues of distribution: iTunes, online streaming, TV, perhaps even theatrical for two-hour "season premieres" and the like; everything. Think outside the box.

The issues here stem from the old distribution system being in decline - it's outdated, frankly -- and the networks desperately trying to lock up all new revenue streams while employing the same business model that has been on-going for the past 50 years, no matter how outdated it may be at this point.

TV as we know it is dying -- the internet and the living room are merging quickly, and if some smart individuals can use this opportunity to capitalize upon, with the help of the creative individuals currently on strike, we may see our digital transition happening much sooner than anticipated.

Would a model more along the lines of indepedent films work here, with certain specific distribution rights being sold off, but the independent producing entities retaining original copyright?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
That is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. What the hell would people do with their giant flat screen LCD TVs? Would people just throw them out?

Think AppleTV and similar devices. We have the technology.

Alexander Stuart said...

That's fascinating about the Radiohead figures, errrm. Where did you get the numbers?

Great to know that so many people paid for it. I couldn't decide how much and wound up paying 12 British Pounds - but I am a former Brit, and I really support what they're doing.

Nick said...

Sounds like a very intriguing plan to me. Or, in Joss Whedon's more eloquent words, "Writers can be replaced... but so can companies."

I mean, if the studios are really down to their last penny, in the red on every production they've ever financed, why would any right-thinking writer want to work for them anyway? Their checks might start bouncing tomorrow, for all anyone knows. Meanwhile, dozens of bloggers are already making a very decent living off the share of ad revenues that Google grants them. If celebrity gossip and rants about the iPhone can put that many asses in the seats, think of the potential for professional filmed content!

Anonymous said...

Are you nuts? The entire reason that internet may not be money is BECAUSE OF THE CRAP QUALITY! Youtube and googles video may be good for the children, but as an adult, no way in hell i'll watch that crap on the computer, I want to watch it on the TV - and even what the some of the networks stream is lowres crap.

They are right: The internet will be nowhere near good enough to stream things in good enough quality for a decade at least - and possibly longer since it requires a hefty investment in hardware all over the country (and world for that matter)

Dream on.

Anonymous said...

Nice thought, but reality is a different story. I highly recommend you use Internet giants like AOL, Yahoo and MSN as evidence that ad dollars is where the real money is for these companies. In fact, AOL has almost completely removed itself from creating original online programming and shifted to an ad-base model like Yahoo and MSN. Simply put, that's where the revenue source is: online ads, not programming. (Talk to Will Ferrel (FunnyorDie) or Ashton Kutscher (K-Labz) and see how they are making money, if at all, with their online projects. Last I read, FunnyorDie projects have been almost 100% pro-bono with no one making money.)

The other problem is with the public: they just haven't gravitated to watching long-form video on the Internet...yet. Take a look at the numbers for those who stream, for example, an episode of "30 Rock." The video is broken down by "chapters," and streaming figures drastically drop from those who watch the first clip to the next. Granted, there were people that said the Internet would never be what it is today, but my guess is that they were all members of the AMPTP to mislead the public...and the WGA :) And as for iTunes, people just generally don't pay to download a show or movie, at least to a level that is economically viable. But that certainly doesn't mean that it won't happen in the future.

I hope your lawyers / union negotiators are smart enough to arm themselves with this information as it is readily available from these publicly traded companies, as well as through Metrix online data reports.

Also, in my un-biased, non-affiliated opinion (OK, I am biased; I am 110% behind the WGA), you need to engage the general public in this battle, the people who really pay your salaries when it comes right down to it. This strike can be won through a savvy PR campaign that captures the public's attention and motivates them to stand up for the writer's rights and boycott shows altogether. But right now, there doesn't appear to be a real strategic plan in place other than picketing in two locations (LA and NYC, two places the rest of the country really could give two-craps about to be honest) and some not-so-creative chants on the picket lines (fine put your pens down and let the public write your chants! They are uninspiring and boring, except for "We write the story-a for Eva Lengoria"...classic.) You all possess the creativity that entertains the world. Use it to your advantage to motivate us, the viewers of America and around the world, to join you. No one really cares that a multi-million dollar actor bought you cheap-ass pizza from Dominoes (I hope the New York picketers get better fare than that cardboard garbage) or decided to take a break to walk the lines for a photo-op in-between shoots (minus, of course, shows that shut down production...sorry to generalize, but hopefully you get my point. People can identify with the UAW striker, but harder to relate to well-paid yuckster.). Seriously, make this more a public issue rather than just yours because we are all affected by this and we all are being hurt one way or the other. Me? I just want my damn funny back! Except for "Big Bang Theory." PLEASE get rid of that! It is sandwiched between two decent shows, what I have now coined as CBS' Prime Time Shit Sandwich: Two slices of Bread (as in bread-winners, money generators) filled with one of the shittiest, nastiest, un-funny, shows on the air since "Dharma and Greg." What a waste of commercial space.

Be patient and stick to your guns. You are 100% right in fighting this out. It is simply an unfair distribution of profits and the studios just aren't willing to scale back their projections to lower their profit margins (bastards!!!). And not very forward-thinking either. But on the flip side, thinking you can survive on the revenue you would earn from just online ads is naive. Also, people won't pay nor will they watch in numbers that would provide you with the salaries you have all become accustomed to. All good in theory, but I think most of you are too close to the issue and reacting from emotions, which is understandable. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't get compensated NOW for the revenue lining the corporate pigs' pockets. Then again, this is just my "un-biased" opinion. Now that my lunch is over, so is my rant. Paz!

Anonymous said...

i work in new media, and am an aspiring writer. the reality is advertising rates on the internet are nowhere near the advertising rates for television. it will grow for sure, but i think there are a couple clarifications we need to consider.

(1) it's important to differentiate the internet as a medium from internet as a delivery mechanism. by medium, i mean what you watch in a browser (stuff like YouTube), and by delivery mechanism, i mean the cables and wires the content gets sent on.

(2) now that we got our terminology straight, internet as a MEDIUM will never replace TV. just like TV never replaced movies. it's fundamentally a different experience. it requires a different structure. for TV, we don't just follow the three act structure for film. it's a different medium, with different user expectation and behavior. for the internet, typically clips that see most success are under 7 minutes.

(3) internet as a delivery mechanism is what we should be scared of. people will never trade their 42" plasma for a 3" wide youtube screen. BUT, what happens if all of your cable content, all of your video on demand, and heck, all of your DVDs are streamed to you over the internet to your TV? when you buy a show from itunes and watch it on your TV using apple TV or something else? that's where the WGA could really get screwed.

doing a deal with google won't necessarily solve the problem. the reality is, all three mediums will co-exist (film, tv, internet). BUT, they may all be delivered in one way or another over the internet. which is why this is worth the fight. in the meantime, the WGA should still get major independent new media companies to become signatories for content done for the internet medium.

by the way, don't know if anyone's seen that break.com is offering $5000 for the best rated content submitted by WGA members. not gonna retire off that, but it beats nothing when you're striking :P

Anonymous said...

The only reason you should consider this is to leverage into a better offer from Nick Counter.

Unknown said...

I get all of my content via on-line. Why? Cheaper than cable, more efficient and convenient. The very strengths of the internet.

All I can say is -

Great idea. Maybe the WGA should sit down with Google, Apple, Joost, and all of the other internet TV providers that are in the works right now?

Anonymous said...

I agree with what you're saying.

I am a college student, and I don't have TV. The main reason: a TV costs around $100-$200 and cable (around $45 a month). I can watch ALL my favorite shows in the internet.

I watch Lost, Heroes, The Office, Pushing Daisies, Journeyman on my computer. And, guess what, as long as they are available to watch in the internet, I will never buy a TV and get cable. Cable TV, in my humble opinion, in a few years will be obsolete.

Even the 2 minute webisodes of NBC's "The Office" come with a 20 second advertisement, and I watch them EVERYTIME. So, it is only fair that you all should be paid for me watching that ad.

Anonymous said...

I just want to say I support this idea. I love TV, especially when it's well-written, scripted serial TV.

That said, I wouldn't be upset at all if the way things were done changed. I'm not currently attached to any major shows, mainly because the creative interesting shows I love were eventually all crushed by the networks who couldn't get the ratings they get with reality TV.

I'd love it if ratings no longer controlled what was produced, so that smaller shows with dedicated fans could stand a chance. And if such shows were allowed to exist, I'd want the writers and creators to get their fair share.

I'm a writer fangirl, and I'm fully on your side. Strike on.

Anonymous said...

Can you watch stuff other than porn online? Huh? Who knew.

Kelly said...


Anonymous said...

Mike - Thanks for your rundown. You nailed it. Currently I get my internet through my cable. But very soon it could be the other way around. And everything will look the same, seem the same. Except the AMPTP will classify this as 'internet content' and thus not under our contract. So you are absolutely correct. This is about the delivery mechanism, not the medium.

And bringing Google and Apple and Yahoo to the table is not about signing on with them for sure or for life. But currently the WGA is auctioning our services to an audience of 1 - the AMPTP. And the AMPTP knows it. So we just need to get some other bidders in the room so the AMPTP knows we have some other option besides taking whatever they give us.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Umm.... If you want to make the AMPTP's case that Writers don't understand the economics of the Internet, then point them to this post.

If you want to show some semblance of reality, then just tell everyone you were joking.

Google does not buy content. And they won't. They will pay ad revenue to content creators after the fact, but not up front. Go find someone that's made money off of adsense, though. No seriously. Go ahead...


I'm rooting for you guys, but please try to stay focused or, at the very least, grounded in reality. :)

Jonquil said...

Look at Google's mission statement. "To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." Google doesn't *create* content -- it *organizes* content (and helps people create and publish it.)

You guys are really fabulous and deserve support, but Google isn't in your business.

Anonymous said...

This is naive. Google sells eyeballs, not content. And by the way, you already have a deal in place with Google. It's called Adsense. You make your content, put it on youtube, display it on your website and Google places ads right next to it. Then they give you a share of their revenue. No one needs to "know someone" at Google for this to happen. It's already in place. So go ahead and make a tv show and try to make it as good and as popular at The Office. If you can do that on your own, without a studio or a network, you'll get paid plenty.

Anonymous said...

Sounds good, but don't jump the gun! Use a potential deal with Google as leverage to force the networks to deal. Don't leave all those feature-length writers in the dust.

Anonymous said...

So if the WGA goes to Google or Yahoo or AOL or whomever, are they just going to negotiate contracts for themselves only or for just SAG, WGA and DGA? What about the rest of us in the below the line guilds? Are we included in that deal? Who are you going to get to cast, design, light, power, shoot, record, edit, score, sweeten and mix the writer's ideas? Because without us, all the writers have is a stack of paper with ink on it. Conversely, we need writers to come up with stuff so we can do what we do best. We need each other.

In an ironic way, the WGA needs the studios and vice versa. If one of them collapses, so does the other, and the rest of the system like dominoes. That might just be the marketplace rolling along, and maybe that's what should happen, but a lot of us will get flattened along the way, which I'm not too excited about. Don't get me wrong, the writers are doing the right thing, but its based in an old model of distribution and ownership.

Don't think that Google is going to give writers, directors and actors (not to mention all of the below the line crew whose numbers dwarf those of the major three unions) union wages when the money they make is from ad revenue over a wide variety of industries, not TV programming.

Hey errrm,

Think about how much it costs to produce a music album by anyone, much less Radiohead. You need computers and gear and mixing consoles, and software and plug ins, and sound proofed rooms (which are hella expensive to make). Actually, all of it is hella expensive. And if you're not Radiohead, with all of that old distribution network goodwill and exposure behind you, you don't make an average of $2.62 per download. You make zilch. So how do you pay for all that gear and do what you do for a living? You don't, and you end up having an industry full of freshmen, which is exactly what's going on with the music industry right now, and it will happen with visual content creation too. The residual structure will be too diffuse to pay for the process of creating the content.

As an aside, advertising as a business is getting clobbered as well by the internet.

AnthonyDe said...

lonelygirl15.com has been pioneering the business model for the past year. They recently have transformed themselves into lg15 Digital Studios. Do a search to see how much their other show KateModern gets for product placements, I think you'll be shocked.

Nick said...

@Anonymous 3:16

It doesn't matter what kind of company Google is. The point is that they have the bandwidth and the dollars to make stuff happen. I mean, look around. Heroes and The Office are produced by a lightbulb company. Prison Break comes to us from a right-wing news baron. Were Google to enter into the content business, it would be a lot less of a stretch than, say, Westinghouse (who used to bring you the Letterman show).

Anonymous said...

I'm going to weigh in as a non-American. The TV industry outside of the states is already getting killed - nearly everyone I know is already watching ALL their TV over the internet as the networks here don't buy shows until they're finished showing in the US, meaning we have traditionally been about a year behind. Ratings fell so badly this year that networks have had to change the way they do business and are now showing TV about a week behind the States, which already shows the effect new media is having. However, everyone's still downloading anyway as people aren't willing to wait a week when it's faster and more convenient to get TV online and watch it on your own timetable. I don't think that's going to get any less true in the future.

No one has thrown out their widescreen TVs, we've all just hooked our laptops up to them and canceled our cable. If iTunes or any other media would accept payment from outside the U.S., I'd be paying them whatever they wanted. As it is, we're all paying for newsgroup registrations and faster connections to try and speed up P2P - I'm shelling out $80 a month on bandwidth and registrations to get my shows when I want them. It's costly, frustrating and benefiting no one, even leaving aside the legality.

I'm pretty sure my entire generation (I'm 25) is more concerned with getting things when we want them than getting them free (or legally, although we do feel bad about it - just not bad enough for it to stop us. Supply isn't up to demand, and demand isn't willing to wait around). I'm positive that if someone offered us legal, fast TV of guaranteed quality online, we'd trample each other in the rush to hand over our credit cards.

Anyway, the point of this convoluted ramble is that I don't believe TV delivery via new media is a maybe or even a risk, it's already a fact here and the people creating it need to get on board because it's happening with or without them. Whoever negotiations may be with, the WGA cannot back down on this fight. I really think the way traditional TV is delivered has already taken a swan dive outside the States that I don't think it can come back from. Someone needs to be thinking wider (and more global!), and I think this post is an awesome starting point.

Anonymous said...

While it probably is naive to look to Google to save the day, I do think there is a lot of merit to this overall discussion. Why can't there be a system more analogous to Silicon Valley? Just like engineers create intellectual property which can be patented and turned into businesses which either fail or succeed, writers create intellectual property that can copyrighted and turned into movies or shows that fail or succeed. Why can't there be a similar system where venture capital comes into play, takes a piece of the project, helps get a proper business in place, but the writer maintains a good ownership stake the whole way through? A stock option equivalent can be thought of for the benefit of everyone involved, including below-the-line, and everyone's happier. Is a model like this possible? And if it is, shouldn't we work toward it?

The Beach Cybrarian said...

This is one of the best suggestions I have heard yet on this debate! Google could distribute original content worldwide.

Anonymous said...

I actually can't find where I originally pulled that information from, but a quick search will give you the same information from several sources. The AP, BBC, and other press agencies did stories on an independant consumer research report that made those findings.

Sorry I can't cite my source, but I'm on my home computer now instead of my work computer with all my files.

And yes, other person who said something directed at me, I know that there are several other layers of people holding out their hands for a check in the music industry. There are also a whole lot less people to pay the way Radiohead did it.

Sure the "let's take our toys and go to google" idea sounds naive, but it's one step in the direction we need to be thinking. People have successfully done it, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how Zwick and Herskovitz do with their Myspace venture.

As far as the technology for streaming video online, it's not going to take 10 years, it's here now. Lots of people DO watch all of their television online.

Zack Stratis said...


Anonymous said...

When I suggested this on Nikki Finke's column, I never mentioned Google. I said Jobs, Gates, Balmer, Allen or Barry Diller could see this as a way to incredibly rapidly grow a whole new business paradigm. There is a momentary opportunity here.

As for those who are worried that McDreamy will never get together with Meredith, she will, after ABC bows to the inevitable and comes back to the table and negotiates with the new WGA, the one that singlehandedly created an enormous rival for ABC by agreeing to provide the whole panoply of creative talent to the new entity AND to hold off on negotiating with the studios until they agree to match the deal points we would get with the new entity.

If someone rich offered to kiss us before... we'd agree. Hell, the studios already treat us like whores and don't pay us for it.

Anonymous said...

Although the numbers are growing, it also comes down to a numbers game: who has high-speed Internet access? Currently, in the United States, 47% of households have high-speed Internet. The US remains the largest broadband market in the industrialized world with 66.2 million subscribers. US broadband subscribers represent 30 percent of all broadband connections in the world.

So while it may be progressive, out-of-the-box thinking, it really, truly is not on the same level as television, i.e., you will never make as much money as you currently do with television. But that's short-term. Long-term, which you are all fighting for, I don't think there is a person in the world that doesn't think we are gravitating to one unit entertainment (I have a media PC connected to my HDTV that digitally records my shows, ala TiVo, and allows me Internet access, meaning I can watch those "free" streamed shows on a big, flat-screen HD set.)

I am the exception for now, but how many people had DVD players, VHS players or other "hi-tech" devices back in 1988 when the last deal was struck? These studios are forward-thinking and tech-savvy enough to realize that there is money to be made on the Internet, otherwise they wouldn't be "experimenting" or making any of the content available online. They are scumbags and deserve to lose their jobs. If for no reason other than they green-lighted Dharma and Greg...and According to Jim...and Cavement....really??!!

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't you imagine, though, that if writers went en masse to creating content for a high speed internet medium, thus ghost-towning television, that the cable companies would immediately try to capitalize on it and expand their high-speed areas?
I mean, I know it all seems pie in the sky, but why not explore it now, it's not like you're bogged down with work right now.

boadicea said...

While Google may not be the right partner-as Jonquil points out, at this point, they're not interested in supplying content-definitely finding another partner should be explored. Barrier being, almost all of the major players are hooked into the same corporate structure that's trying to bust the guild now.

Additionally, there are a couple of critical points-you must not leave the other guilds behind in any negotiations with other content partner. They're standing by you in a way that didn't happen in the union busting 80s, as I recall, and that was a lose lose for all workers.

I don't know labor law, but it seems like moving in the internet direction would be a natural time to build an AFL type of structure among the guilds and so make your bargaining position one of industry wide solidarity instead of the current piecemeal one that leaves each guild separately more vulnerable.

Also, that means the Guild needs to come out foursquare for net neutrality-because the AT&Ts and Comcasts are already using a chokehold on content providers, and in a distribution model relying on internet bandwidth, it will be essential to protect open access for all equally.

Short term, I know this won't be of much use except possibly shaking the Producers from their white knuckled insistence that all web content is promotional, but for the long term health of all the entertainment guilds, y'all need to move in that direction.

Unknown said...

Go all Radiohead on their asses.

Anonymous said...

FWIW-- The last 3 days, this is what writers on the picket line have been talking about. Why do we need the AMPTP for Internet. And why do we WANT them to have jurisdiction there?

Aside from google, people have been talking about apple, yahoo, ebay, & the "German investor".

It'll take a couple show-runners and A-list stars to do this, but it should put the AMPTP in a panic.

Writers pacing around with nothing to do get talking, and I'm telling you guys-- this has come up EVERY DAY on the line.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant idea. But in the spirit of your nemesis NBC's Green Week, use Blackle, which is Googles energy saving brother.

Anonymous said...

i completely agree. and for the record, i fully support the writers and what they're doing. but i am an animator working on family guy/american dad, and our writers are striking with everyone else. we, the animators, get NO RESIDUALS whatsoever. none. not directors, storyboard artists, nobody. the writers and actors get their residuals, but we get zero. so while we are waiting for our production to come to a stop and put us all out of work, we have talked about this idea of cutting out the middlemen and going directly online. more power to the people who actually MAKE these shows! good luck, writers- maybe some day we can all be treated fairly!...

Jim Dunn said...

The point of all of this is to create a scenario where a rising tide lifts all boats with some sort of fairness.

Below-the line, SAG, DGA -- hey, everyone with marketable skills could compete in a far more open marketplace if we weren't hostage to one major buyer, the AMPTP.

Chuck the old paradigms. Networks could license content to Google or whoever(Yahoo, Apple...Honda), and vice versa.

And for regular TV people, remember, a huge amount of the coverage in the US is provided by affiliates, not O&O network stations.

If the networks don't want to cut a good deal for the best talent in the world, they'll have a tough time holding affiliates with an endless round of reality shows, etc. The nation is ditching analog signal soon. I reckon the market would find a way to broadcast a digital signal and get wide coverage even before the cable companies rushed in to wire up places that aren't yet.

It's ju-jitsu. Suddenly the crappy stuff would be on network, the best stuff on the net.

The two key elements are retaining a collective position to set a minimum standard as the industry transforms, and setting up a real market where we have more clients for our work than just the AMPTP.

We need the leverage of unity in an open market. For anyone, any company, that wants to make truly high quality content, they need our collective skills. Only by hanging together during a transition do we avoid all hanging separately.

And even if this model isn't realized at this time in some form, it needs to be discussed. Someone needs to remind the AMPTP that they don't own everything -- including us.

And just putting the concepts in play is a form of asymmetrical warfare in action during the current negotiations.

Shaun said...

I will happily pre-pay for shows with cash. Here's a novel idea... produce pilots and post them to a pilot clearinghouse website. People pledge money to have a season of the show they like produced. Even pay $30/month for the site so the pledges are collected for sure. I'd join if the writers and actors participating where good and doing what they loved. You own your work, guys.. keep it up!

Inspiracy said...

This is a brilliant idea! I'd feel much better if net neutrality were in a better position, as to support such a radical departure from the mainstream. One thing at a time. I think this idea is awesome, I even think it'd work to a certain extent. It would certainly be good from a viewers perspective.

Anonymous said...

Start your own channel with an Internet-arm. Call it the Independant Writer's Channel. Put people like Bill Lawrence, Tina Fey, J.J. Abrams, Seth McFarland, etc. behind it and create your own rules, like profit sharing that really gives everyone their fair share. Think of it sort of like a broadcast co-op. I'm sure we'd get a much better line-up of shows, that's for sure. Plus, then you would own the rights to your own material and do as you please. And make a boatload of money along the way. :) (Well, for those priveleged few that get their shows on the channel.)

I'm sure there are many downsides, like if you ever had your material run on the IWC, you'd have no chance in hell to ever work for any of the other networks or studios. But just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Do you realize that in Germany they already have the capability to see everything shown on cable, through the internet, any time they want?

How is it that this isn't out in the mainstream press.

Promotional my ass. It will be streaming content 24/7.

Your computer is your TV.

"It's the Internet, Stupid!"

Anonymous said...

The Internet is the CB of the 90's

Anonymous said...

Uhhhh, Roger that. Over.

Anonymous said...

Actually it's "that's a big 10-4 good buddy!" Get your jargon right.

Anonymous said...

I think everyone needs to take another look at Tivo. Especially the new TivoCasts. Tivo's been pumping out "shows" for close to a year now. Started with Rocket Boom and their odd ball internet geek humor news cast and now they've got 2 dozen new ones. Most of these are under 10mins though Cranky Geeks is about 30 mins with 2 buffers & 2 commercials. See http://www3.tivo.com/tivo-tco/cds/index.do

TV & Internet are already working nicely together. The studios are trying to kill Tivo because it gives the audience control to skip commercials thus "steal" from the studios. Yet I find myself watching the commercials of the tivo casts because I'm not being spoken to like an idiot.

Furthermore, Tivo has also partnered with Amazon for something they're calling Unbox. Pick a movie you want to rent for a few days and for $$$ Tivo will download the movie and store it on it's hard drive.


The next GREAT STEP and I'm sure Google/YouTube/**INSERT YOUR FAVORITE PORNO SITE HERE** is already working on or has figured out is to hook Tivo up to YouTube/Google/**INSERT YOUR FAVORITE PORNO SITE HERE** and have it download videos ON DEMAND.

However, as I type this on my 24" HD monitor I can't see why I would want to download something to the Tivo in the cold basement, and watch it on an old crappy low rez old skool 27" TV.

Oh well wasted another 30 mins in a circular argument with myself.

Anonymous said...

Errr....Copy that. Over. :D

The GladGirl said...

Of all the brilliant minds of all the brilliant showrunners out there they could surely pull together a team and start their own entity. A hybrid mix of Youtube / Google type. Build it and they will come. Message to anyone who starts this project, please hire me. I so wanna be there.

Anonymous said...

There is one showrunner of an animated series that is simultaneously working on projects with google right now. He is the one you should talk to.

Jenn said...

I'm all for writers striking their own deals and going independent. But if you think that Google won't eventually screw you even harder than the Studios, you are crazy.

They are already a dominant feature of everyone's life on the internet. Please don't make it worse.

Inspiracy said...

Earlier, I liked this idea. Upon further inspection I hate it. Why the change of heart? It's because a move like this isn't what the strike is about. The strike is about negotiating with those who produce the shows. This idea negates anything like that, it's good that it's been aired out, but it won't work. It certainly won't work as a stem to stern replacement for television. More accurately, it won't pay the bills. Having said that, abandoning negotiations for "New Media" monies won't work either.
Maybe I'm wrong.

janello said...

I have been wanting to do this for 2 years and if it takes a strike to make it reality, I guess that's not all bad.

In answer to the original post I know someone high up in Google and Yahoo!.

Well. One of those is me. Maybe we should get on the horn. Drop line janello@yahoo-inc.com

I want to make this happen

Anonymous said...

I think it's a bad idea, but if it ends this damn strike, i'm for it.

Anonymous said...

Not everyone watches TV on the internet. I have not once ever watched a show on the web. I'd rather watch it on my TV than on a tiny ipod screen.

boadicea said...

Frank, so do I in general. Though my computer screen is a decent sized TV, so I don't lose much by watching downloads.

Downloads that are creating revenue for the studios and currently not one red cent for the writers, directors, crew, and performers who make that revenue possible.

Writers are workers. Workers deserve fair pay.

Anonymous said...

Forget Google- they don't spend money on "content deals" and want to be agnostic. But there are lots of other large portals that do. MSN has been working directly with Reveille for awhile (Big Debate is funnier than many things I've seen on network TV - probably because there were no network execs giving notes). Yahoo, MySpace, even dying AOL have been doing some interesting direct distribution deals where the right people get paid for their work and the potential to tap into whatever upside there is in this new business.

Anonymous said...

The people who say "this is a bad idea" or "Google will screw you" don't get what e're talking about. Use the combined strength of the WGA to set fair rules going in. Remember, we'd be bringing something incredibly powerful - our massive, combined creative abilities (including those who have exclusive deals with the studios who would agree to join the team when these expire). Imagine what Bill Gates or one of the investment houses could set up for what is to them a song. As as for crap on the internet? A) not all of it is, som is brilliant and b) we'd be talking about content created by the greatest creative minds in the world, not kids on their basements.

I think even the THREAT of such a deal would terrify the studios and networks back to the table.

Anonymous said...

hi, I can get you in touch with whoever you need at Google. Who do i contact? Email phone number?

mine is intothemusicfilms at mac.com

Jim Dunn said...

I've been a big advocate of this sort of idea. And while I strongly believe we need to get this sort of re-framing of the question out on the table, I realized last night what the big problem with this idea really is.

The showrunners.

They are key levers in this whole negotiation process, both as creative juggernauts and the people who hire everyone else on the TV side. And they've shown enormous solidarity with the less strategically valuable of us by abandoning their producing capacities in overwhelming numbers.

But CBS/Paramount has already begun issuing the lawsuit threats, suing showrunners for the cost of productions stalled by their walkout. Could be millions each for many showrunners.

No one expects those suits to play out, of course. Some sort of amnesty will occur because the networks & studios need those people so badly. Not as long as we agree to move back in with our current "spouse" (however difficult the marriage).

But if we DID do a deal with a third party -- well, all bets are off.

Maybe we could wind up with an MBA between us, the AMPTP and a third-party-to-be-named-later. But a complete walkaway isn't going to happen.

The showrunners now have a LOT to lose in this hypothetical, no matter how much might be gained.

Maybe we can still create an "open marriage" so to speak, but a full-on divorce ain't gonna happen. Not unless the new "date" is so rich they want to indemnify the liabilities facing the showrunners, and that seems like a helluva stretch.

Anonymous said...

The chief problem with Google would be their rampant ageism. Isn't there enough of that thrown in the faces of screenwriters, especially TV writers, already? If Google was the boss, 25 would be the new 40.

Anonymous said...

It's such a shame this thread was started talking only about Google. The world is full of deep pockets, many envious that they could never penetrate Hollywood because of the pre-existing studios. But for once in a generation, those studios are being held at bay by the WGA and its strike. I keep saying, don't settle. Threaten to move to the guys next door.

The simple reality is, there ARE no other writers of the calibre that the WGA has. If they were, they'd be mmbers

We hold more cards than we realize. Sure the studios can hire scabs, but from where? England? There aren't THAT many people in england to match the top talents we have.

The AMPTP knows the power we have, they are doing EVERYTHING to stop us from realizing it.

When CBS sent out cease-and-desist letters to their own showrunners, it was a clear "tell." They blinked.

And that's the moment we should have gone in or the kill. They wouldn't hesitate to do it to us.

Start negotiating with someone. I don't care if it's Barry Diller, or Steve Ballmer. Or Steve Jobs. Imagine the press THAT would get. "The writers have threatened to take their typewriters across the street. Details at eleven...."

Anonymous said...

Do you really want to go this way? Software developers, the people who write the software, don't get paid residuals. They don't get paid a percentage of any revenue generated by the software, whether from direct sales or indirect advertising. Google, and all other software companies, make lots of money in part by requiring their employees to sign over all their intellectual property rights related to their work as a condition of employment.

Software developers also aren't members of unions. The last thing Google or any other software house wants to deal with is unions who expect residuals. If you go the software way you'll be paid a fee for piecemeal work, an hourly wage for contract work or a salary for (quasi-)permanent employment. You won't get residuals for anything.

Anonymous said...

If I could edit my previous comment I would add...

You won't negotiate wages with a software house as a union. You'll negotiate as individuals.

Zack Stratis said...

It still does not hurt the WGA to explore what kind of deal could be made with the software companies. IT'S A GREAT IDEA!

Anonymous said...

FYI -- Google is, at this very moment, buying original content from a well-known WGA member and show runner. The show's now in production and may very well end up going Guild.

Chris Crosby said...

Relevant VARIETY article from August regarding Google.

Anonymous said...

Or better yet, combine some of these ideas. Create a series to show on YouTube with advertisements (TV equivalent), then release the series later on iTunes ad-free to download (DVD equivalent) for iPod or other use. I bet a top notch quality series like The Office or Grey's Anatomy could be just as big on a YouTube/iTunes distribution and allow a greater cut to go to the people who actually write/act/produce/direct the content.

Apple and Google currently have a good working relationship, and both companies have very progressive leadership. I bet the WGA, SAG, and DGA could work with Google and Apple to negotiate a distribution system like this to rival the TV/DVD industry. Plus, it can all be advertised as GREEN, since you can now watch all your content completely digitally (which also means lower distribution costs involved). Of course you can still release to DVD's, but you can heavily promote the green digital methods of viewing.

Hell, I bet if you sat down to a joint meeting on Monday with Google and Apple you guys could scare the studios into sprinting to the negotiating tables.

Anonymous said...

This is a good idea, but Google is going to stay out of the way of this whole thing. You will find no ally in Google, fellow writers.

The best you can expect from Google is they will snap up purchases of studio content creation or entertainment design execs or divisions if they are a bargain on the trading block. They will be on the market because the strike killed their current profitability and the IP has to be sold off for whatever left it can make by the big guys who at worst will have a tax writeoff.

Then, Google, being smart, rich and unrestricted will continue to do what is the trend frankly in the business of entertainment (User generated content) online.

They will then subsequently make a smart business decision to use their own writers on board, hire game writers who are not covered by union contract, or hire non-union writers whom even WGA members will have to admit can have qualitative and quantitative artistic merits.

I will be posting thoughts on what the context might actually be on my myspace.com/comedyalaarthur blog in the next couple of days with a strategy I am sugesting as opinion to all writers and supposition as to the train that you have heading right at you nobody seems to be talking about.