Damon Lindelof, producer of the TV Show Lost and poster child for all that is wrong in the world of Comic Books, recently penned an article for the NY Times entitled “Mourning TV” In it, he goes on to say how unfair it is that LOST has been streamed millions of times and he hasn’t gotten paid for it. To quote the article…
My show, “Lost,” has been streamed hundreds of millions of times since it was made available on ABC’s Web site. The downloads require the viewer to first watch an advertisement, from which the network obviously generates some income. The writers of the episodes get nothing. We’re also a hit on iTunes (where shows are sold for $1.99 each). Again, we get nothing.
Now the issue here is that there’s a big assumption in the above paragraph. Mr. Lindelof is equating “revenue” to “profit” which is a huge assumption on his part. I’ve consulted for a couple of digital media startups and I can tell you firsthand that bandwidth is not cheap. I very sincerely doubt the studios are doing much more than recouping their costs off online streaming being that they can only scare up one advertiser per show right now.
As for iTunes, I don’t know what deal the studios have with Apple but I’ve noticed that most aren’t rushing to sign up all their new shows which makes me think the revenue is minimal. It’s a topic for another time but iTunes has always seemed like more of a marketing channel than a revenue channel to me. So really you have a situation where the writers are asking for a chunk of money that very well might not be there.
Which brings me to the second part of my point which is this...Mr Lindelof, I hate to be the one to break it to you but you and your colleagues (writers, directors, producers, et al) are overpaid. You know why you don’t see unions in the computer field? Because everyone knows that a programmer is of some value so they don’t need one. Developers don’t demand more stock options from a company they just threaten to go somewhere else. In contrast everyone in Hollywood is in a union because they know that they really aren’t that valuable and that there’s some kid writing plays in Pasadena that could probably do their job better if given the chance. This brings me to the line in the article that I just found offensive. Mr. Lindelof says…
But I am willing to hold firm for considerably longer than three months because this is a fight for the livelihoods of a future generation of writers, whose work will never “air,” but instead be streamed, beamed or zapped onto a tiny chip.
To that I say BULL$#@^! This is a fight over RESIDUALS, a.k.a. the money you get paid on top of the 6 figure salary that you already got paid. No one’s livelihood is in the least bit of danger right now. That brings us down to the harshest truth of all which is that Hollywood is eventually going to have to bend to technology. Technology forces products to be sold for their true market value and not an artificial high created through scarcity.
Ask the music industry who used to charge $20+ for a CD and they’ll (grudgingly) tell you I’m right.
Its time for TV to be given to the consumer for what it is worth and that means that Studios, Writers, Producers and Actors are going to have to live with a little less and honestly I don’t have the least bit of problem with that. The studios are already being forced to face these facts with the shrinking margins produced by digital content but it’s now the writer’s turn (and the actors, producers, et. al will soon follow) Honestly, maybe the writer’s should just be happy to make 6 figures doing something they love. That’s certainly more than all the stage hands, extras, and other low level workers who HAVE lost their livelihood to this strike are making.