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.