When the dust clears on the Hollywood labor scene this year – perhaps sometime this spring, if SAG and AFTRA start bargaining soon, perhaps next fall, if they don’t – there is likely to be a lot of second guessing about what went wrong. The bottom line is that it is getting harder and harder to squeeze compensation out of the producers. Neither the WGA nor the DGA were able to make a dent in DVD residuals and they barely budged the needle on new media.
In theory the entertainment industry has one of the strongest concentrations of organized labor in any industry in the U.S. And yet, a three month well organized strike with widespread public support was, at best, a draw. And if the WGA’s focus on new media as opposed to DVD’s turns out to be wrong it will be looked back upon as a well intentioned but serious strategic error. This article in the Times suggests why the problem facing the Guilds, the IA and AFTRA have become such a challenge: the terrain on which the industry rests is shifting under the feet of the unions.
Venture capital, some of it from old line East Coast wealth like that of the Rockefeller family (Venrock is their family V.C. fund), is joining up with talent agencies and the telecom sector to finance digital media start-up companies. These companies, of course, are not in the AMPTP and are not parties to any collective bargaining agreement and unless organized labor in entertainment figures out how to apply leverage in this new world it will find it harder and harder to stay in the game.