Writers strike could Be “interesting opportunity” for producers outside U.S., says CAA global TV head Ted Miller – Deadline
The looming writers strike in the U.S. could be an “interesting opportunity” for producers working outside the country in an era of globalized content, CAA’s head of Global TV Ted Miller told a panel at the MIA Market in Rome on Thursday.
“I think there’s likely going to be a writers strike,” he said. “I’m not a prognosticator, but they seem to be leaning that way because the writers feel they have leverage if they strike on some of the very important issues that are meaningful to them,” he said.
The Writers Guild Of America (WGA) is currently limbering up for negotiations with the U.S. studios, networks and streamers over the updating of their current contract which expires on May 1, 2023.
Having been on the backfoot during the last negotiations in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the guild is determined to address key issues like minimum pay rates, streaming residuals as well as pension and health benefits.
“For producers making content outside of the U.S., especially English language content, I think there’ll be a really interesting opportunity as we head towards that strike date in May. There will be an appetite at the U.S. buyers, streamers or otherwise for content,” said Miller.
“Strikes happen fairly frequently in the U.S. with the Writers Guild. There’s a work stoppage and then there’s a lack of new content. That’s always an opportunity and I think the marketplace is just so much better set up today to find content from other places to bring to those U.S. audiences.
“I don’t mean to be negative to the writers, but you could have that secondary effect of ‘Okay, now we’re just going do foreign content’. The studios can get pretty tenacious, but I do think it’s an opportunity for outside suppliers.”
Miller was talking on a panel exploring opportunities in the scripted sector in a changing landscape, alongside Fremantle Group COO and Continental Europe CEO, Andrea Scrosati; talent manager Robert Lazar at Marathon Management; Lorenzo De Maio, President of De Maio Entertainment and Danna Stern, former MD of Israel’s Yes Studios, who has recently set up shop in Berlin.
The same group took part in a similar panel at the 2021 edition of MIA. They kicked off Thursday’s talk by reflecting on how much the landscape had changed since then.
“What a difference a year makes,” said Stern. “We were here talking up Netflix, how they could do no wrong; how streaming is where everything is going, how there’s going to be these international platforms launching, HBO Max, Paramount+.
“Then suddenly, April comes, and Netflix is not hitting its numbers. Suddenly streaming is gone. It’s not a thing. International is not a thing. Everybody’s consolidating, stopping production, halting expansion.”
Stern said she felt this had resulted in a more collaborative approach, while De Maio talked about a newfound openness in the sector.
“It feels like everyone is open again. Everyone has to think a little bit harder and a little bit differently, including all the buyers, which really opens up some interesting conversations,” he said.
Fremantle’s Scrosati said that international content was still in demand, but that the changing fortunes of the streamers meant global all-rights deals had fallen out of fashion for now.
“A year ago, if you had a great show in South Korea, you sold it to Netflix to be a global show,” he said. “I think we’re back in a place where, if you have a great show in South Korea, you can actually package it and then sell it on a territory-by-territory basis, as we were doing three, four years ago,” he said. “As a producer, I find that pretty cool because that means you actually keep IP.”
Scrosati suggested that subscription-based streamers would come under further pressure in the coming months due to the cost-of-living crisis, particularly in Europe, which in turn would bolster the rise of AVOD services.
“Families are going to be sitting at their kitchen table in October and November looking at their energy bill and saying, ‘Okay, nine subscriptions. No, I can’t do that but you still want content’ and they’ll be turning to Pluto, Roku or ad-supported Netflix,” he said.
Miller said this change in approach by the platforms would be another source of opportunity.
“They all said they would never have advertising or theatrical and, of course, they ebb and flow, because whether it’s the economics or a stock drop, they all have to flow, and for all of us on this side that’s an opportunity, whether you’re in the representation business, production or distribution.”
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