The world of television is under assault from all sides these days. As new platforms like YouTube and Google video offer multiple outlets for new content the established networks are struggling to find a new formula for success. One idea: rely on established stars in new products as described in the Wall Street Journal. Ironically, the film world seems to be going in the opposite direction as the recent attack on Tom Cruise by Sumner Redstone suggests.
The emergence of digital delivery to handheld devices like the iPod made by Apple looks like nirvana to some in the world of studios and networks desperate to replace revenue streams that are levelling off in DVD and other formats. But this recent article on Wired.com reminds us how non-union sweatshop conditions help underpin the global entertainment industry. (Ironically, or tragically, some in the labor movement – like Andy Stern at SEIU – and some in academia like Kent Wong at UCLA and Katie Quan at UC Berkeley – have been cozying up to China recently despite the complete absence of genuine labor unions there. For more, see my blog on global labor: http://globallabor.blogspot.com/)
As some of my readers know, I spent quite a bit of time in LA and Hollywood this past spring in discussions with the leadership of the Screen Actors Guild about various issues. The major collective bargaining agreements between the unions representing entertainment industry workers and the major employers expire seriatim over the next two years and so stories like this one about the recent split between Tom Cruise and Paramount Studios take on a certain salience. There are various theories advanced in this particular story but the collective bargaining angle is ignored. Sumner Redstone, of course, is a savvy business man and what better way to try to scare the rank and file working actor than to pick on a major, if not the major, star of the last decade? Of course, arguably, Tom Cruise left himself open to attack with his rather unorthodox public appearances of late, not to mention what I thought was the weakest of the three Mission Impossible movies.