Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Two Fine Examples of Leverage

In two different directions.

On the front page of yesterday's Hollywood Reporter are two stories, side by side. The first offers this:

... After 2 1/2 years of negotiations, "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane has inked a new mega overall deal with 20th Century Fox TV that would make him the highest-paid TV writer-producer.

The pact, which could be worth more than $100 million, will keep MacFarlane at 20th TV through 2012. It also encompasses new-media projects related to MacFarlane's TV series as well as DVD and merchandising revenue from them. ("Guy" alone has grown into a $1 billion franchise with red-hot DVD and merchandise sales.) ...

MacFarlane has been red hot since he left Hanna-Barbera as a fresh-faced twenty-three-year-old in the nineties. And ever since Family Guy took off on DVDs after its teevee cancellation, Fox execs knew damn well they had themselves a winner, one they didn't want to lose

[Re the long negotiation of the contract:} "It's a relief to have it done," 20th TV chairman Gary Newman said.

Added [20th TV exec Dana] Walden, "Today marks the first time in a long time (20th TV top business affairs execs) Howard Kurtzman and Neal Baseman did not have their shoulders up to their ears with anxiety."...

[T]hroughout the process, 20th TV brass never considered letting MacFarlane go.

"I'd rather lose a limb," 20th TV chairman Newman quipped. ...

Could we stipulate that young Mr. MacFarlane had big leverage? I think we could. And the news Corp. people still love Seth even though he said unkind things about the company during the recent Writers Guild unpleasantness. Money and levrage have a magical way of letting bygones be bygones.

Now contrast the Seth saga to the news story right next door:

SAG backs off on DVDs as extended talks continue

... SAG has scaled back some of its demands, including its initial proposal to increase DVD/home video residuals ... SAG is now seeking a 15% increase in DVD pay... However, it's unlikely the AMPTP will budge now ...

Not budge? You think?

Within days, AFTRA will start negotiating with the Alliance of Mega Producers, and it's as likely as the sun rising in the east that AFTRA will reach a new agrement, and then SAG will be the odd Guild out.

And then sooner or later, one way or the other, the Screen Actors Guild will beat a tactical retreat and end up with essentially the same deal that every other guild and union in town possesses: the DGA formula.

Because fairness, goodness and loving justice are wonderful things, but leverage is what counts.


Anonymous said...

comparing the leverage of a single artist to the collective bargaining of a group of employees is like comparing the compensation of a ceo to that of his employees. seth's leverage has absolutely nothing to do with labor leverage. it is a corporate non-compete payoff.

the real question is whether or not he will REALLY live up to his new paycheck and use some balls to support artists for a change. let's start by nixing all those bullshit tests.

or maybe he no longer thinks of himself as a person who draws?

Steve Hulett said...

Yes, apples and oranges.

But I'm making the generalized point of more leverage and less leverage. Period.

Whether Fox is paying Mr. McFarlane a lot of money because a) they expect big, profitable things out of him or b) they don't want another company to enjoy his services is irrelevant. Whatever the motivation is, the company on Pico is paying him mucho dinero.

He'll get the big paycheck whether he supports artists or not. All Fox cares about is return on investment.

Of course, it would be nice if he would champion artists at FA. So here's hoping.

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