TV pacts are making a comeback — but with plenty of caveats.
Starting two years ago, the double whammy of the writers strike and economic meltdown put studio dealmaking at a standstill for TV scribes. Now, the studios are once again expanding their exclusive producing deal rosters.
But the pacts are not back in a form that veteran scribes and producers would remember them.
These days, there are megasized eight-figure deals for top-tier talent like J.J. Abrams, Jerry Bruckheimer, Chuck Lorre and Ryan Murphy … and then there are the down-to-earth deals that are still harder for seasoned scribes to command than they were five years ago. And unlike the go-go days of the 1990s, writers under exclusive contract to studios are typically being drafted to work on existing shows while they develop their own pilot ideas.
As evidenced by Variety’s survey of TV pacts, the major studios still have about 300 writers, producers and multi-hyphenates under exclusive long-term contract — even after the force majeure bloodbath that saw the majors eliminate at least 80 such deals from their rosters during the nadir of the WGA strike in January 2008.
And while predictions that overall deals would become a thing of the past didn’t come true, everyone on the management and labor side of the equation will tell you that the dynamics of dealmaking are very different today.