WKRP and the Writer's Strike

The duration and dialectic of the Writer's Guild strike demonstrates to me that most studios continue to "not get it" when it comes to digital media. They still insist on monetizing every right, and yet only want to share in that monetization if they can see an a priori path to generating profit from the format or device that generated the cash. If anyone on the left coast believes that phones, iPods, and similar portable devices will not be major video platforms for at least the next generation of users, then spend some more time any place frequented by teenagers. But the whole situation runs much, much deeper than simply guessing where and how people will watch their re-runs of "Scrubs".

It's about how we, as consumers of the content, also generate interest, foster new consumption and basically do the job of advertising and marketing arms of the studios. If every digital right is something to be controlled, with every potential fractional cent wrung from that control, we all lose. We lose because we miss out on things that might have mad us laugh, cry, or hurl (and if you laughed at that, you just proved my point, particularly if you had to explain the open guffaw to the next cube over. Party on, Wayne).

My opinions (and they are mine) are pretty straightforward here: if a studio can charge money for content, then that revenue should be shared proportionally independent of the vehicle, format, encoding, delivery, or payment mechanism. Compensate the creators, or they stop creating. That's one part of the writer's guild argument. My opinion is modulated by the words "can charge money,", not "must charge money," and that's the missing corollary argument around digital rights. How do you grow the overall demand for this content, enriching everyone along the way? That means giving away some rights, whether it's for YouTube video background music or setting context in a 1970s sitcom. There will continue to be licensing deals done - if you want your new car line to use a classic rock song, you bet the label will want a residual on each traffic slot filled. But I experienced, first-hand, the downside of this insistence on getting blood money from stone cold television reels.

Part of our family holiday tradition is to pick out movies or TV shows a least a decade removed from our kids' lives. They've discovered why Hoosiers might be the best sports movie of all time, and enjoyed a very young Julia Roberts in Mystic Pizza. I was sorely tempted to buy the boxed set of WKRP In Cincinnati this year, until I found out that many of the musical gags had been edited out -- without redistribution rights for 10 seconds of various classic rock songs used in the television airings, those scenes were simply elided from the DVD set. So the audio punch lines can't even fall on deaf ears; the jokes stopped existing. You can only laugh at 70s fashion style so many times; WKRP as a series falls apart without the rock and roll angle. And it's likely to continue to sit, unloved as newsie Les Nessman, until those Foreigner tracks are reunited with the on-air cast.

Comments:

Bang on! I'll never buy WKRP on DVD as long as half the show is gone. It would be like watching "Planet of the Apes" without the ape suits.

One only hopes that, some day, the studios (TV, movie, and music) will "get it."

Bob the Angry Flower

Posted by Bob on December 20, 2007 at 07:26 AM EST #

I remember this was an issue when the Northern Exposure DVDs came out with replacement music edited in - as one blogger put it, "It feels like a character has been deleted out."

http://home.comcast.net/~mcnotes/SubMusic.html

Posted by Steve on December 21, 2007 at 05:20 AM EST #

selam napıyonuz çok güzel olmuş

Posted by perde on December 25, 2007 at 06:37 AM EST #

Merry Christmas and Happy new year to all of you.

Posted by michael on December 25, 2007 at 01:22 PM EST #

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Hal Stern's thoughts on software, services, cloud computing, security, privacy, and data management

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