As part of my daily online read, I culled the following from the past week or so. Usually I post these links and any editorial to facebook. I am going to start posting the most significant ones – those that I think are required reading for reps (and our respective clients) – on a regular basis to dealfatigue. Please let me know what you think.
The Food Network made Emeril Lagasse and Rachael Ray into television stars and household names. They’ve also become multi-millionaires from the sales of countless books and other merchandise; revenues the network admits are typically excluded from their talent deals.
The NY Times reports that about a year ago, the “Food Network began aggressively trying to change that with new deals that were ‘way more onerous’ from the stars’ point of view, said a person who has been affected by the changing strategy, by insisting on a stake in book deals and licensing ventures, and control over outside activities.”
This is an important sea change in talent negotiations on non-scripted programming. While my experience has been that network participation in merchandising has been part of the ask from cable outlets, it has not, for the most part, been a deal breaker and then only when it arose from an outlet’s desire to embark on its own merchandising efforts (i.e., revenues from branding the network as opposed to the talent).
The Food Network’s approach will likely influence future negotiations at other outlets breaking new talent in their programming though probably less so on deals featuring talent with more hosting experience (i.e., brand recognition in their own right) or have pre-existing merchandising deals. Such talent will have more negotiating leverage but if pressed, may be able to negotiate limited outlet participation “above a baseline” from any bump in merchandising revenues after hosting the outlet’s programming.
Variety’s Dave McNary reported that the WGA rejected requests for strike waivers by the Golden Globes and Oscar telecasts today. While the Guild granted waivers during the strike in 1988, I doubt they will now- even to Letterman and Leno -until and unless meaningful negotiations resume for two reasons. Awards shows present a high profile opportunity to make an adverse and very public impact on the quality of these telecasts. Secondly, any waiver now, absent meaningful negotiations and in the face of mounting holiday debts for WGA members, may erode the widespread support of Guild members to the cause.
The LA Times ran a story that striking writers are in talks with venture capitalists to finance and launch Internet start-up companies. “Silicon Valley investors historically have been averse to backing entertainment start-ups, believing that such efforts were less likely to generate huge paydays than technology companies.” There’s been a change in that perspective, albeit a limited one, after the success of Youtube. I’ve been involved in several of these deals. One started just before the strike and was in production as late as last week. They’re interesting opportunities on the cutting edge of where the entertainment business appears to be headed. However, without the right business model, these ventures will – if they go anywhere – lead to cross-over deals for TV programming rather than a big pay day for an Internet venture. It reminds me of Web 1.0’s icebox.com or my stint with Film Roman’s Level 13 back in the day. Despite the risks, more and more of my clients are migrating to the Internet, if not for the potential payoff then for a chance to broaden their experience and marketability down the road.
Letters to the Editor
The New York Times
229 W. 43rd Street
New York, N.Y. 10036
Re: “A GREAT IDEA LIVES FOREVER, SHOULDN’T IT’S COPYRIGHT?”
To the Editor:
The May 20, 2007 Op-Ed Section carries an essay by Mark Helprin urging that Congress extend the term of copyrights to perperuity or close to it.
Copyrights now have a term equal to the life of the author plus 70 years. Authors include not just the individual authors and song writers mentioned by Mr. Helprin, but also the corporations that hire the individuals to create most of the computer programs, motion pictures and television programs that we all use and watch. It is Microsoft, not any individual, that owns the copyright to the nearly ubiquitous WINDOWS operating system and the WORD computer program. Likewise, it is Time-Warner or one of its corporate affiliates that owns the copyright to “THE SOPRANOS”, and Sony or one of its corporate affiliates that owns the copyright to the movie “SPIDER MAN” and its sequels. Because corporations have an indefinite life, copyrights owned by corporations last for 95 years from the date of publication.
If we followed Mr. Helprin’s suggestion to its logical conclusion, the works of William Shakespeare would still be protected by copyright today some 400 years after his death. This would have prevented Leonard Bernstein and his co-creators from producing “West Side Story” (which was based on Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet”) without the permission of Shakespeare’s heirs. Imagine the problems in locating all of them and securing their permission. At least it would be good for lawyers like me. The examples of literary and artistic works based on or derived from earlier works are too numerous to begin to list, but without these examples, our artistic lives would be immeasurably poorer.
The fact is that the term of copyrights in the United States is now among the longest in the world.