The dawn of a new age in entertainment

Like others have already suggested (e.g. Diane Mermigas today), I believe the writers’ strike is a turning point in the history of the entertainment industry. There’s no going back, and what will be tomorrow won’t resemble yesterday, even if it means the end of certain institutional functions in the creation of entertainment. Rather than let the market do it alone, the writers have chosen to kill themselves. Noble, perhaps, but foolish to the max.

That’s because to try and resolve this particular argument — how to compensate the creative process in a world of disintermediated, distributed media — in old fashioned ways is like the Biblical “pouring new wine into old wineskins.” What’s required here is coöperation, not confrontation, and that, sadly, will never happen with two sides seeking only their own best interests. The truth is nobody knows how the new world will turn out, and to try and force compensation based on any formula calculated today is not only foolish, it’s irresponsible.

The writers believe that unbundled opportunities are where the money’s at downstream, but that’s problematic when previous sources of revenue — those that supported their lifestyle in the first place — are drying up quickly. So it’s a chicken and egg matter. The egg business assumes sufficient chickens to make them.

Try and sit through the credits on any Hollywood production. Then consider the credits of, say, ZeFrank. “Apples and oranges,” you say. Yes, but eyeballs are eyeballs, folks, and therein lies the rub.

And this is a warning to all who choose to rely on “worker power” to force anybody in media to adhere to old practices in trying to reinvent the business. The more you demand, the less relevant you are.

Secondly — and perhaps more importantly — the public is already turning to other sources and distribution models to find entertainment. This exacerbates the essential problem by allowing customers to create other habits. This is not smart business, and the union is hoping it will force the studios to their knees. Count me with those who believe that’s not going to happen.

This isn’t just another tired labor dispute. It’s the omega and the alpha, the end and the beginning.

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