Thousands of members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and SAG-AFTRA unions walk the picket lines in brutal summer heat while the media attempt to explain why the strikes are a bad idea. Unfortunately, the press often shows only one side of the issue: the one espoused by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
The AMPTP claims that streaming services aren’t making any money and there’s not enough to share with the writers. Oh, and they also assure the strikers that AI won’t replace them.
Show Both Sides
I find that inadequate. Any dispute has two sides, and the public should see both. I think that any columnist, critic, reporter, editorial writer, or pundit who writes about the entertainment industry’s two strikes should include a box in their article that lists the salaries of the studio and streaming-service executives.
You can see a list here: Hollywood CEO Pay 2022 Revealed: Top Executives Compensation (Chart) – The Hollywood Reporter.
(Notice that the salaries are going up, but the stock performance is going down.)
After explaining why the strikes are bad business, these reporters would have to address two big questions:
- How could so much salary money be wrung out of a business that has no profits and
- Why are millions going only to the people in the business who have never written, filmed, directed, or acted in one of their products?
Industry Suits and Naked Greed
As usual, the suits are killing the goose that laid the golden egg. They don’t care as long as they can take the money and run. Worse, quotes from an anonymous source have revealed the AMPTP’s despicable strategy to win this conflict. They plan to drive the strikers into starvation and homelessness so they’ll be forced to work for rock-bottom wages.
He said: “The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses.” It gets worse. According to Vanity Fair: “A new report from Deadline claims the AMPTP wants the WGA to “bleed out.” They will let the strike drag on until writers run out of money, calling it, “A cruel but necessary evil.”
Necessary to whom? This is naked greed at its most exposed and avaricious.
Executive Decisions and Red Ink
If you looked at the chart in Hollywood Reporter, you saw that the executives’ salaries go up while stock performance goes down. That means the suits rake in rich rewards for doing a bad job. Given that they don’t create the product their company sells, their value lies in making good decisions that increase the bottom line of the company they lead. Good decisions don’t lead to red ink.
That leads to my next question: “How can you possibly think a strategy of naked greed will end well for you? What do you think the end result will be?”
Tech Layoffs and the End Result
To do a little research, they might learn what happened in the high-tech industry after the savage layoffs of the nineties. Unemployed and underappreciated people don’t sit around holding a tin cup and hoping that some kind Mr. Moneybags will drop in a few coins. Instead, they leave.
The writers will take other jobs, just as high-tech folks have done for decades. The unemployed and underappreciated tech folks found work in other places and different industries. They moved from expensive homes they could no longer afford to other cities, different states and even other countries. They also switched industries, taking jobs as teachers, reporters, analysts, and consultants.
Not one of the overpaid executives in the Hollywood Reporter can create entertainment that people want to see. And if they think artificial intelligence (AI) can replace real human writers with a cheaper alternative, well, they have another think coming. I dealt with that in a previous post, written when only the writers were striking.
I will reiterate what I said in a separate post about high-tech layoffs: no company ever downsized its way to greatness. Leanness can’t make up for a lack of hands to do the work, skills to get it done well, and experience to avoid pitfalls.
The End Result of Naked Greed
The AMPTP’s strategy of naked greed will do to TV streaming what the Covid pandemic did to movie theaters. We used to go to movie theaters nearly every weekend. Since the pandemic began, we have visited a theater exactly three times in the last three years. Driving this strike to a cruel end will result in the loss of jobs and the destruction of whole companies.
Naked greed will also drive people to foreign sources of entertainment like Britbox. Hollywood doesn’t have a lock on movies or TV series. Other countries know how to do it, too. We have seen many excellent shows that came not just from England but also from Sweden, Finland, Italy, France, Germany, South Korea, Japan, and Australia. Given a choice of series like Line of Duty (England), Deadwind (Finland), Glitch (Australia), and Drops of God (France/Japan) vs any show written by AI, I’ll take the foreign product.
The Bottom Line on the Bottom Line
The bottom line, folks, is that the men who get paid eight-figure salaries to drive profits are instead embracing a strategy of mutual destruction. When this is over, Hollywood and associated industry locations like Vancouver, Georgia, and Boston will look like scorched earth. It won’t be because of this summer’s heat.
Hollywood has had a good run. Naked greed may be driving it to an untimely end.