Money For Nuthin’ or Nick’s For Free

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AFTRA accused Nickelodeon of improperly negotiating talent revenue participation for the cable outlet outside of Nick’s shows. A copy of AFTRA’s purported letter to Nick (I couldn’t verify its authenticity) is here.

More specifically, AFTRA’s letter asserts that Nick requires “that the performer grant to the employer a right to a ‘profit participation’ interest in the talent’s third-party income as a condition of employment” in violation of AFTRA’s collective bargaining agreement and possibly California law.

I don’t think that AFTRA has a leg to stand on or they would have cited the applicable provisions of their agreement and the law chapter and verse. I suspect that Nick’s lawyers came to the same conclusion.

What is clear is that the major studios, networks and cable outlets are looking for the next Martha Stewart or, in Nick’s case, their answer to the Disney Channel’s “Hannah Montana”; building brands on the backs of the talent they break with the goal of cashing in on their success essentially forever.

While it’s difficult to empathize with the big entertainment companies, production costs are rising and viewership is more fragmented. As a result, they’re on a desperate search for new revenue streams.

I posted about this emerging deal point several months ago when the Food Network started asking for similar language in their talent agreements. With Nick now taking up the cause, a trend has developed and it won’t be long before the rest follow suit.

What was once an unreasonable “ask,” will become – if it isn’t already – business affairs policy unless talent reps develop the leverage to collectively reject it. However, with the potential millions to be made by breaking the next Miley Cyrus and a surplus of talented kids (and their parents) hoping to make it big, I doubt that’s possible.

  • What vaguely concerns me — and then in only the most optimistic sort of way — is what happens when this sort of point spreads beyond these cable network deals and into other areas of entertainment. Are we going to see actors and writers all forced to sign indentured services contracts whereby Universal (f’rinstance) gets to skim my future screenwriting revenue in return for producing an early screenplay?

    I understand the net’s position to some extent: in the case of Cyrus, for example, Disney has nurtured her career like mad for a few years now to create this monster that generates great honking gobs of delightful cash. But it seems a little scary to think about the weird ways this could turn out.

    Nice blog, btw.

    B

  • What vaguely concerns me — and then in only the most optimistic sort of way — is what happens when this sort of point spreads beyond these cable network deals and into other areas of entertainment. Are we going to see actors and writers all forced to sign indentured services contracts whereby Universal (f’rinstance) gets to skim my future screenwriting revenue in return for producing an early screenplay?

    I understand the net’s position to some extent: in the case of Cyrus, for example, Disney has nurtured her career like mad for a few years now to create this monster that generates great honking gobs of delightful cash. But it seems a little scary to think about the weird ways this could turn out.

    Nice blog, btw.

    B

  • Brett,

    There’s always the concern of a slippery slope. What evolves today may become the abusive practice of tomorrow.

    Given the fluctuation of negotiating power between the reps representing the Brad Pitts of the business and those representing just off the bus talent, I am confident that there will be a check on the most severe forms of this deal point. Time will tell.

  • Brett,

    There’s always the concern of a slippery slope. What evolves today may become the abusive practice of tomorrow.

    Given the fluctuation of negotiating power between the reps representing the Brad Pitts of the business and those representing just off the bus talent, I am confident that there will be a check on the most severe forms of this deal point. Time will tell.