Producing Writing

What do Hollywood Business Models have to do with the Writers’ Strike?

Yes, I am continuing to follow news about the Writers’ Strike and, yes, given my previous posts of Adam Conover videos, there was really doubt I’d post a video with Adam Conover talking about the Writers’ Strike? (I mean, he was one of the WGA folks in the negotiating room):

(It clocks in at just under 72 minutes, FYI)

One of the arguments you hear early in the video goes something like this:

  1. These companies are enormously profitable
  2. We (the writers) are an integral part of creating these enormously profitable products
  3. What the hell? (gestures at enormous profits, then back at self)

That got me thinking about how the studios are defining “profitable,” because they clearly don’t agree with the above statements. And I have to confess, I don’t understand the studios’ business models because there’s a recent trend of removing movies and shows from their streaming services. And this isn’t the usual churn you’re used to from other companies not wanting to extend their licensing deals with Netflix. No, this is original programming made specifically for that streaming service. That’s what boggles my mind. Weren’t those part of the growing library of You-Must-Subscribe-to-Us+ for goodness’ sake? Disney has recently joined the throng of incurring “impairment charges” that eliminate shows that you won’t be able to see elsewhere… and I can only guess that it looks good on a balance sheet. But how short term is that? Disney of old would have artificial scarcity in how it would re-release its films in theaters every few years… and then it did something similar with its DVDs. This feels different.

I’m not saying it answers all my questions, but Matt Stoller, who writes about monopolies and economic structures that empower or disincentivize monopolies, recently wrote at length about some of the economic forces that have led to the Writers’ Strike. Besides the (surprise!) stats that talk about corporate consolidation reducing marketplace competition is other analysis that provides explanations for the rise of needing blockbuster opening weekends and, yet, wacky aspects of the streaming services. The most disturbing possibility? The media companies cripple domestic production in the quest for their version of “profitable.”

Happy Tuesday!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.