NBC and CBS have reached deep into their program vaults and are flooding the web with free streaming offerings of couch-potato classics, including “Star Trek” (the great 79); “Hawaii Five-0” (a personal fave); “Emergency” (Gage and DeSoto rule); “Miami Vice” (love the one where Frank Zappa guest stars); “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour” (great host); “Kojak” (great Telly); “MacGyver,” “Melrose Place,” “The A-Team,” “Simon & Simon” and the original Lorne Greene-in-a-robe-and-toupe version of “Battlestar Galactica.”
There’s especially good news for fans of the Rod Serling oeuvre. CBS is offering the first two seasons of “The Twilight Zone,” and NBC.com and SciFi.com are beaming out “Night Gallery.” “Night Gallery,” produced by Universal TV for NBC from 1970-1973, is not as consistently mind-blowing as “Twilight Zone,” but the best of the episodes, mostly the Serling-penned segs, are very, very good indeed. Steven Spielberg famously made his directorial debut on a “Night Gallery” seg starring Joan Crawford as a blind woman with a very high sense of entitlement.
Interesting that these separate initiatives from the Eye and the Peacock were announced about a week after the majors inked the new deal with the Writers Guild of America that calls for them to pay scribes 2% of the distributor’s gross on web streaming of library TV shows, library being defined as anything produced after 1977 and streamed more than a year after its initial telecast.
With library product, the 2% of distrib’s gross formula kicks in right away, not in year three of the WGA contract as is the case for contempo programs. So the timing of the majors’ push to offer on-demand access to their libraries is a good thing for scribes, on paper. The real question is, how do you calculate the distributor’s gross for online distribution of an old “MacGyver” or “Miami Vice” seg?
In theory it will be based on whatever the license fee that the owner (aka distrib) of the program receives from the exhibitor, aka NBC.com and CBS.com. But valuation matters get even more complicated when you’re talking about vintage product owned by the same conglomerate that also controls the Internet exhibition. This is the kind of stuff that will keep lawyers for the guild, the studios and top creatives fully employed during the next few years.