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TV On Strike

Why Hollywood Went to War Over the Internet

by Cynthia Littleton

Publication Year: 2012

On November 9, 2007, the Avenue of the Stars, a six-lane concourse that runs through the most affluent business district in Los Angeles, was swelling with striking writers and their supporters. It was day five of the Writers Guild of America strike against film and television production enti­ties, notably those controlled by Hollywood’s heavyweights: Walt Disney Co., News Corp., Time Warner, NBC Universal, Viacom, Sony Corp., and CBS Corp. Nearly two years of rhetoric and posturing by leaders of the guild and the major entertainment conglomerates had devolved into a bare-knuckle street fight. It was the first industry-wide walkout to hobble Hollywood in nearly twenty years. In TV on Strike Littleton narrates the inside story of the hundred-day writers’ strike that crippled Hollywood, exploring the television industry's uneasy transition to the digital age that was the driving force behind the most significant labor dispute of the twenty-first century. The strike put the spotlight on how the advent of new media distri­bution platforms is reshaping the traditional business models that have governed the entertainment business for decades. The more than 4,000 writers that crowded the streets of Los Angeles and New York with picket signs laid bare the depth of the divide, after years of industry consolida­tion, between the handful of media barons who rule Hollywood and the writers whose works support the industry. With both sides afraid of losing millions in future profits, a critical communication breakdown spurred a brief but fierce fight with repercus­sions that continue today. The saga of the Writers Guild of America strike is told through the eyes of key players on both sides of the negotiating table and by the foot soldiers who shocked even themselves with the strength of their resolve to fight for their rights in the face of an ambigu­ous future.

Published by: Syracuse University Press

Cover

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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, About the Author

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pp. 3-8

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

The idea for TV on Strike came to me about a month after the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike ended in 2008. I was thumbing through my notebooks full of reporting from picket lines, rallies, and other strike-related events, and it hit me in one big brainstorm rush that the strike was the perfect prism ...

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Introduction

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pp. xi-xxiv

Avenue of the Stars is a majestic, six-lane concourse that runs through the most affluent business district in Los Angeles. It cuts north-south through the heart of Century City, the West LA enclave so named because of its historical affiliation with the 20th Century Fox studio, which once called the 176-acre area its back lot. ...

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1. Fear of the Unknown

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pp. 1-21

If the prime-time television business were a third world country, it would find itself at the mercy of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The reins of power would have been turned over to a team of economists and bankers tasked with implementing draconian reforms and a five-year plan for rehabilitating the national economy. ...

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2. Path to the Picket Line

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pp. 22-39

“The East is on strike?” Nick Counter asked incredulously. Counter, the longtime chief labor negotiator for Hollywood’s major studios, looked stunned as the news sunk in. It was shortly after nine o’clock on Sunday, November 4, 2007.1 ...

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3. Sowing the Seeds

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pp. 40-62

Patric Verrone was keenly aware of how significant the timing of the guild’s walkout would be for the prime-time television business. After starting out as a lawyer, Verrone had been working as a television writer for more than twenty years.1 By the time of the strike, Verrone had enjoyed a successful but not extraordinary career in television. ...

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4. Brinksmanship Across the Table

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pp. 63-87

“Ugly” is the only way to describe the tenor of the relations between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers in the months leading up to the October 31, 2007, expiration of its MBA. The verbal sparring between the sides grew steadily in the first few months of the year after ...

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5. United Showrunners

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pp. 88-112

The morning after the WGA’s news conference announcing the strike timetable, about ninety showrunners gathered at the Sheraton Universal hotel, adjacent to Universal Studios, in an effort to make some sense out of the swirl of events.1 ...

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6. Angst in the Executive Suite

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pp. 113-136

As 2007 began, Peter Chernin, Bob Iger, Barry Meyer, and Leslie Moonves made a point of talking with one another regularly about the upcoming cycle of guild contract negotiations. None of them had any illusions that the talks with the WGA, DGA, and SAG would be easy this time around. ...

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7. Rallies, Retrenchment,and Late-Night Returns

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pp. 137-164

By the time WGA and studio negotiators faced one another again in a conference room at the Renaissance Hotel, Bryan Lourd was working every angle he could think of to help the sides reach an agreement. He gathered facts and perspectives from a slew of informed sources, from industry executives to prominent WGA, DGA, and SAG members ...

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8. Cue the Directors

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pp. 165-189

By the time the AMPTP engineered the December 7 blowup, the CEOs had given up any hope of bridging the gap with the WGA. Counter and the AMPTP stewards shifted their focus to Plan B: cutting a deal with the Directors Guild of America that would provide a basic template for contracts with the WGA and SAG. ...

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9. Deal or No Deal?

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pp. 190-211

Alan Wertheimer was having lunch at a restaurant in Park City, Utah, on January 20 when his cell phone rang. It was the third day of the Sundance Film Festival, the annual gathering that brings a glossy mix of Hollywood and independent-film types to the ski-resort town about thirty-five miles east of Salt Lake City. ...

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10. The Finish Line

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pp. 212-230

On the day the DGA deal was unveiled, a small group of prominent writers had dinner at the Beverly Hills home of Paul Attanasio, whose résumé includes screenwriting Oscar nominations for 1994’s Quiz Show and 1997’s Donnie Brasco. The group included Aaron Sorkin, Gary Ross, Akiva Goldsman, and John Wells. ...

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11. The Bloodletting

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pp. 231-255

Was it worth it? Were the contractual gains achieved amid the pressure of the WGA strike worth the sacrifice in immediate earnings for writers and others in the creative community? ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 256-268

Like the rest of the world economy, the entertainment marketplace was unpredictable during the three-year period covered by the WGA’s 2008 master contract. The new media landscape evolved and expanded in ways that no one saw coming in early 2008. ...

Notes

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pp. 269-280

Index

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pp. 281-296

Back Cover

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pp. 325-326


E-ISBN-13: 9780815652007
E-ISBN-10: 0815652003
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815610083
Print-ISBN-10: 0815610084

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Television and Popular Culture
Series Editor Byline: Robert Thompson

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Subject Headings

  • Television writers -- Labor unions -- United States -- History -- 21st century.
  • Internet.
  • Writers Guild of America -- History.
  • Television -- Production and direction -- United States.
  • Television programs -- Economic aspects -- United States.
  • Television programs -- Social aspects -- United States.
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