Thursday, January 17, 2008

Strike Update

While rumors of a deal between the Producers and the DGA (Directors Guild - which is set to strike in June if no deal is reached) are heating up, there is still no end in sight for the end of the Writer's strike. I went down to Disney/ABC to walk the picket lines again today. The turnout of striking writers is still surprisingly good, after some 2 months, though everybody seems really tired of spending 4 hours of every day walking back and forth in front of the studio.

As reported by Reuters News: Robert Iger (Disney CEO) got a 7% raise to $27.7 million a year. By way of context -- if the WGA got everything it was asking for, it would cost Disney $6.25 million a year. Mr. Iger could write a personal check to end the strike for his whole corporation -- and still have a little over $21 million left over.

Here's a great short op-ed piece about the Strike, Fox and American Idol. You can find more like this, and get consistent updates at

Laughing All The Way

By Ed Decter (WGA member, Pet Rock owner)

Long ago, in the era before digital streaming and video on demand, I was one of those kids who saved his allowance and bought a Pet Rock. I remember my father putting on his bifocals to examine the cardboard box with the built-in handle, the little nest of straw and the egg-sized gray stone. My dad sighed then said, “The guy who thought of this is laughing all the way to the bank.”

If my dad were still alive, he would be following the progress of our strike very closely; not just because his son is a screenwriter, but because he was always skeptical that those in power would abuse that power (I guess being in the first United States Army division to cross the Rhine made an impression on him).

My dad read two newspapers cover-to-cover every morning. He would have certainly seen the article about how the WGA strike has resulted in a huge boost in ad rates for American Idol. Fox is now charging about a million dollars for a thirty second spot on Idol. This rate isn’t for the FINALS, just a regular weekly episode. After reading the article my dad would have called me and asked, “How many thirty second spots are there in an hour of television?” I would have replied that on average there are about eighteen minutes of commercials per hour.

My dad, who was a businessman and very good with numbers, particularly as they related to the “bottom line,” would have estimated that each hour of American Idol was grossing 36 million dollars for Fox. The two hour episode that aired last night might have brought in 72 million. I would have then explained to my dad that those ad rate figures were just the tip of the iceberg. The Idol show also serves as an advertisement for CD sales, live touring shows, and tons of Idol-related merchandise (even on the Internet!).

I imagine my dad would have asked me who the “guy in charge” at Fox was. I would have told him the guy’s name is Peter Chernin. My dad would have said, “He must be laughing all the way to the bank.”

Peter Chernin must be a lot smarter than the chairmen of the other conglomerates. He must have about a hundred IQ points on each of them. How did he convince Les Moonves to “hold the line” and do without new CSI episodes while handing Fox the biggest ratings win in history? How did Chernin spin Iger on shutting down the Grey’s Anatomy juggernaut so that WGA-less Idol could run free of any competition? What did he say to Jeff Zucker? Did he assure Zucker that Howie Mandel is every bit the ratings equal of Simon Cowell?

Apparently, according to my Google search, a guy named Gary Dahl invented the Pet Rock. In the world of sales Gary was an amateur. He just dreamed up a product and made a bunch of money. If Gary were truly a captain of industry he would have also convinced the manufacturers of hula hoops, Slinkys and Tonka Trucks to STOP MANUFACTURING THEIR TOYS so that the public could ONLY buy Pet Rocks.

That’s why Gary Dahl could never be chairman of Fox. He’s no Peter Chernin.

So, Les, Bob, Jeff, just know that when Peter Chernin is at the bank cashing his billion dollar profit checks, he’s not just laughing at the WGA – he’s also laughing at the three of you.

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