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Saturday, December 29, 2020

scripted
A lot is being made out of the success of David Letterman’s World Wide Pants production company in coming up with an interim agreement with the striking Hollywood writers union, the culmination of efforts initiated a couple of weeks ago.

The deal, which restores [”Late Show with David Letterman” and “Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson”] to business as usual, gives them an enormous advantage over their competition.

GE-owned NBC’s “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” as well as ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” had already announced they would resume Wednesday without benefit of their writing teams. Similarly, Viacom-owned Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert” planned to return writer-less on Monday, Jan. 7.

But I’m wondering: How big of an advantage will it really be? Will audiences care, or even notice, whether a late-night show is scripted or not? The NBC shows are usually more skit-heavy than the Letterman shows, so maybe the absence of structured segments for Leno and O’Brien will give these new episodes a different feel. And the question of some entertainment-industry guests — movie/television stars and music acts — not wanting to even figuratively cross picket lines might give Letterman/Ferguson a leg up.

But ultimately, audiences have their preferred hosts, and I have a feeling the eyeballs will stick with their usual favorites. As long as the episodes are new, I doubt many viewers will switch.

From that, I’m thinking the studios will use the resultant ratings as ammo against the next round of talks with the writers. The argument will be that the scripting doesn’t have much impact on drawing audiences, and so they’ll be even less inclined to compromise with the Guild.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/29/2007 06:53:18 PM
Category: Business, TV
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  1. Will audiences care, or even notice, whether a late-night show is scripted or not?

    Carson Daly is a completely different show without writers. So is Ellen. I think people will notice immediately that a) there aren’t any jokes on the show anymore, with b) instead a reliance (as DeGeneres and Daly have done) on self-entertaining guests, mainly “stupid human trick” types. Except that’s all the shows are, and they more closely resemble The Gong Show than what they used to be.

    The ratings will be wildly different, and this will just lend even more ammo to the WGA (the fact WWP accepted their demands is evidence alone that they aren’t as absurd as the media companies claim they are).

    Comment by tim — 12/29/2007 @ 07:26:19 PM

  2. One thing about World Wide Pants “accepting” the writers’ demands: Bear in mind that this is an interim agreement. That means that not only will it be automatically superseded by any eventual industry agreement with the WGA, but it also likely doesn’t completely address all the contentious issues that’s still preventing an industry-wide agreement. In particular, I’m betting the Internet-distribution rights weren’t settled, which is the chief sticking point in the wider strike.

    Comment by CT — 12/29/2007 @ 07:41:48 PM

  3. Actually they were.

    WWP had little reason to dispute the Internet-distribution residuals because their programs are not aired over the internet, and even if they were they aren’t likely to be particularly popular. The WGA only wanted residuals on airings that came post-”free window” which is something like… 72 hours? Episodes of a late-night talk show became pretty stale after 24 or so.

    Incidentally, only that CNN article seems to be referring to the deal as an “interim” one. The WGA itself says it’s full and binding … their specific words:

    “This is a full and binding agreement. Worldwide Pants is agreeing to the full MBA, including the new media proposals we have been unable to make progress on at the big bargaining table. This demonstrates the integrity and affordability of our proposals. There are no shortcuts in this deal. Worldwide Pants has accepted the very same proposals that the Guild was prepared to present to the media conglomerates when they walked out of negotiations on December 7.”

    Comment by tim — 12/29/2007 @ 08:36:29 PM

  4. Sorry Tim, but pretty much every story out there is using the “interim” tag on this agreement, including the most recent updates.

    And more to the point, “full and binding” and “interim” are not mutually exclusive. WWP has a bona fide working agreement with the Guild for as long as the wider strike is in effect. But once the wider strike is settled, it’s not likely that WWP is going to want to operate under different rules than the rest of the industry. Granted, by the look of things, the strike might not be settled for months, but once it’s over, it’s over.

    As for the new media rights, CBS is disputing that critical aspect of the WWP deal:

    But CBS said in its statement issued tonight: “CBS controls the Internet exploitation rights for both programs, and will comply with any eventual negotiated agreement between the AMPTP and the WGA.” But then Letterman’s side showed that its company and not CBS is the one responsible for paying residuals to the WGA writers for Internet use of the shows.

    And the muddiness on this point is confirmed in Variety and Hollywood Reporter. I think what it comes down to is what you said: WWP doesn’t really care about the Web rights, since it doesn’t involve itself in that per se (nor in the other sticking points dealing with reality shows and animated series). So it was easy for them to sign off on that. They don’t care, they just want the short-term advantage of getting back on the air fully-functioning, in stark contrast to their network-owned competition.

    Bottom line: If the WWP interim agreement were really a template for an industry-wide settlement, it would have been adopted by now. That it’s not tells me that management isn’t ready to concede on that and other points.

    Comment by CT — 12/30/2007 @ 11:44:47 AM

  5. CONAN THE BEARD-BARIAN…

    So the late-night network talkshows have geared back up in the midst of the writers’ strike, and the ratings tussle between union-approved Letterman and picketline-crosser Leno is top-of-mind. (No comment on that from me until a more solid, mult…

    Trackback by Population Statistic — 01/04/2021 @ 08:46:45 AM

  6. LATE-NIGHT STATUS QUO, WRITERS STRIKE OR NO…

    Can’t say I’m surprised by this: Late-night talkshow ratings are the same as they ever were, with Jay Leno beating out Dave Letterman regardless of the lack of union writers on “Tonight Show”.
    Leno has a 27 percent advantage ov…

    Trackback by Population Statistic — 01/18/2008 @ 06:17:50 PM

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