July 17, 2007
WGA Negotiations Begin; What Will Be the Future of Transmedia Storytelling?

Tensions between the Writer's Guild of America and the entertainment industry show no signs of being any less heated than predicted, as a few news stories from last week emphasize. The negotiations began yesterday. TV Week has been my media coverage site of choice to follow the developments.

For instance, there was the bulletin sent around to WGA members emphasizing the need to stand strong for a piece of the profit on new-media ventures and to ensure what they consider proper compensation.

On the other hand the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers propose a three-year study of new media to help determine the conditions for compensation for this ancillary content, trying to determine the differences between models set up for television that would need to be built differently for online projects.

These tensions are about very important industry issues that must be worked out, since the teams that produce and create the content for these projects should certainly be justly compensated. Yet, while I understand that this is a complex issue not easy to resolve, the continued delays and lack of leadership in working through these issues only mean that the reality of transmedia storytelling will have to lag behind these longstanding stubborn positions within the industry.

Andrew Krukowski reports that the AMPTP "said that it would be 'foolhardy' to consider a survey that would be conducted over a shorter span of time, such as three months, as it would be too early to tell how new media is going to affect viewers. He suggests that the survey is the 'intelligent' thing the WGA can do, but is pessimistic about the proceedings.

James Hibberd writes about the WGA's stance that:

The WGA's "Contract Bulletin" newsletter is described as the first in a series of upcoming mailings to keep members informed of the leadership's point of view during negotiations.

The portrayals of the entertainment employers' financial status fits squarely into the guild's strategy of showing that its contract demand for a share of new-media profits is reasonable.

"There is growth in almost every single measure of economic performance, including gross revenues in every segment, excellent operating profits and rising share prices for all six [major entertainment] companies," wrote WGA chief negotiator David Young. "This is good news for writers and other members of the talent community."

The combative stance both sides seem to be taking at this point does not sound particularly reassuring for progress to be made quickly, but it would behoove all sides to try and work toward an equitable compromise.

So often, the technology and market can be in place for new forms of media and technology long before the market can work out its internal struggles to produce that content.

For more on the subject, look here and here.