TV writers set to get more royalties from streaming services

Jasmine Garsd Jul 6, 2020
Heard on:
HTML EMBED:
COPY
David A. Goodman, president of the Writers Guild of America West, speaks during the organization's 2020 awards presentation. Amy Sussman/Getty Images for WGAW

TV writers set to get more royalties from streaming services

Jasmine Garsd Jul 6, 2020
Heard on:
David A. Goodman, president of the Writers Guild of America West, speaks during the organization's 2020 awards presentation. Amy Sussman/Getty Images for WGAW
HTML EMBED:
COPY

After months of negotiation, the Writers Guild of America has reached a tentative agreement with major Hollywood studios. 

One of the major points has to do with streaming. Streaming platforms like Netflix and HBO Max have been both a blessing and a curse for Hollywood writers. 

We’re living in what’s been called “the golden age of television.” Thanks to an array of streaming platforms, there are more TV shows than ever and more opportunities for talented and diverse new writers. It’s also easy to stream old favorites — “Mad Men,” “Sex and the City,” “The Sopranos.”

But, for a lot of writers, there’s the ongoing issue of residuals — money they get every time a show is rerun. Consider NBC’s “The Office.”

“Every time you are watching that, some distributor had to pay money for you to watch that again, and that money is getting broken down and distributed to the people who created it,” said Danny Kravitz, a screenwriter who teaches at Columbia College Chicago.

But when a show goes on a streaming platform like Netflix, it’s a “one time deal. And again, they try to account for what some of that backend might be, but you’re not going to have those huge hits,” Kravitz said.

Otherwise, those payments would be huge because up until last year, “The Office” was the most watched show on Netflix. 

Which brings up another issue with streaming. Unlike traditional TV, platforms like Netflix don’t release ratings. And it makes it harder for writers to negotiate new contracts based on how popular their product is.

Tim Hanlon is a media analyst with the Vertere Group.  

“Television measurement was relatively simple, back in the day when there were less choices,” Hanlon said. “And the technology needs to catch up with how increasingly complicated the delivery and the viewership of television has become.”

The terms of the WGA’s tentative agreement haven’t been made public but reportedly include an increase in streaming residuals.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.