Writers Guild of America leaders are seeking major gains in writer pay for comedy-variety shows on streaming platforms.
“Series like ‘Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj,’ ‘I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson’ and ‘The Iliza Shlesinger Sketch Show’ provide streaming platforms like Netflix with different types of entertaining content, which in turns helps those companies attract new subscribers,” the message from the WGA’s negotiating committee said.
“Despite this growth, terms for comedy-variety programs produced for subscriber streaming platforms are entirely negotiable, which means there are no WGA minimums. As a result, companies are free to pay writers as little as they can get away with, resulting in some of them not even earning enough over a season to qualify for WGA health insurance. In addition, residuals on a hit show barely amount to a few hundred dollars.”
Representatives for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the WGA are facing a June 30 expiration of the current film and TV contract. Talks began last week on a remote basis after two start dates were vacated. The committee sent out the latest message to members on Wednesday after deploying four messages over the past week in place of the information it would have given at in-person member meetings.
The negotiating committee said the new contract needs to cover other comedy-variety series that may be shifted over to streaming platforms in the future.
“We have been successful in previous negotiations in establishing minimum terms for episodic series and feature films made for SVOD. It is time for comedy-variety shows to be treated the same way,” the message said.
The message also noted that the new contract needs to stop the current practice of companies cutting comedy-variety weekly rates by as much as 20% below minimum in exchange for employing writers under “cycle” contracts.
“Comedy-variety writing jobs make up a consistent and important source of employment for WGA members. We therefore need to ensure these jobs continue to pay the minimum rates and residuals that Guild members have worked many years to achieve,” the message concluded.