WGA On Strike and more damn ROBOTS!

The WGA strike, AI, and media network profits are coming together to make the media landscape even worse.

I’ve been talking a lot recently about the future of our industry and the jobs within it, about how we need to support each other, and keep as many positions as relevant as possible. Since my last post, the WGA officially went on strike for the first time in 15 years. Good for them, they’re getting screwed by how shows are formatted-8 episode season vs 22 in many cases (again we can all change with the times but there’s no need to screw people in the process), by how residuals work, and by the prospect of you guessed it, AI replacing writers.

All of this is happening while networks are still making pretty large profits, even if they're less than previous years it's usually still enough to fund a small country.

In its letter to shareholders, Netflix said revenue and operating profit were in-line with the company’s forecast. Q1 revenue reached $8.16 billion, up 3.7%from $7.87 billion in the first quarter of 2022, when the streamer had report edits first subscriber loss in over a decade. Operating income for Q4 was $1.7 billion and net income was $1.3 billion.

Meanwhile over at Paramount:

The owner of CBS, Nickelodeon and the Paramount movie studio said its first-quarter loss came to nearly $1.12 billion, or $1.81 a share, compared with a profit of $775 million, or 58 cents a share, in the year-earlier quarter. Revenue was essentially flat, down 1%, on shortfalls in its TV media and filmed entertainment units, while its streaming operations saw revenue rise 39%.

Keep in mind this is the case at Paramount where CEO of Paramount Global, Bob Bakish saw a total compensation in 2022 of $32 million, 12 million more than in 2021.

And Bob Iger the once again CEO of Disney earns 27 million annually, which is actually less than Bob Chapek (32.5 million) the Disney CEO briefly in between the two reigns of Bob Iger. Come to think of it maybe we'd all be better off if we were named Bob...

Warner Brothers Discovery added streaming subscribers and earned 50 million in profits from their streaming unit in the first quarter with CEO David Zaslav saying " we feel great about the trajectory we're on." I'd feel great too if I made 39 million, which actually pales in comparison to his 2021 total compensation of 246 million.

You'll see I say "total compensation" because yes, a lot of this "pay" for these CEOs is based on stock options. Does that make the money any less valuable? No. And does it make people who are working for these companies and who know how to read quarterly reports call BS when the CEO says {we're on a great trajectory} while out the other side of their mouths saying "we can't afford to pay you?" YES. Look, I am all for people making money, even LOTS of money. I would someday like to make LOTS of money, or I guess become an older gentleman named Bob because they seem to be doing ok. But, the inexcusable antics of these guys trying to up the stock price with layoffs …I say what I said last post again “WHO ARE YOU SELLING YOUR GOODS TO IF NO ONE CAN AFFORD TO BUY THEM” The economy sucks, we all feel like we’re living in some type of dystopian nightmare at this point, barely anyone can make a living, at least one where they aren’t stressed out about even one thing going wrong and not having the money to cover it and yet these goons are taking home tens and sometimes hundreds of millions- basically the entire operating budget of entire communities. We work in information, but also in art and storytelling. Storytelling is what makes humans…human. The great ages of art have always been great ages of prosperity, because only at times when artists had the freedom to create and not have to worry about their basic needs of survival were they truly free to make things that are beautiful. So how then, can the people who are expected to CREATE (re: make what is being sold) meant to do their jobs when they can’t afford housing, but their boss takes home  ten million a year because they (and this is my absolute favorite sign I’ve seen at the WGA strikes) THOUGHT UP QUIBI?!? For those playing along Quibi lasted less than 9 months, spent over a billion to commission short form content and in the end sold its entire library of content to Roku for less than 100 million.

In late April Amazon and Prime studios laid off about 100 employees., though the major "networks" would argue Amazon's streaming success is part of their loss. I'd argue there's enough to go around and content creation is not a zero sum game like it is with commodities. If you buy a book buy Hemingway that doesn't diminish Vonnegut's profits, whereas if you buy a banana from Dole it may very well diminish Chiquita's profits.

In the wake of all this we also saw MTV news disbanded, former VJ and current Fox personality Kennedy had some good points here. She's right, a lot has changed and both audiences and creators need to adapt, but that doesn't mean there isn't some type of compromise to be reached. Vice News Tonight, was canceled and the Vice brand, an outlet one could argue was the post MTV generation MTV news, is potentially headed for bankruptcy.

As I told you all last month the industry is in danger, not just media journalism(which is) not just local journalism (which is- and you can get a great look at how important local journalism is in the last episode of the My Favorite Murder podcast wherein Karen Kilgariff highlights the Bainbridge Review’s work during WWII) , but words and music and paintings, and dance, and all forms of art- as well science and information are in danger unless we get a real handle on AI and don’t sheepishly follow the hoards into the abyss of thinking that EVERYTHING new technology provides is good. It isn’t, and it isn’t all bad, we just need a HUMAN handle on this- as highlighted by AI researcher Gary Marcus in his recent Ted Talk.

*photo credit to

@chescaleigh on Twitter who has been documenting the WGA strike and who posted a video with the photo and the best WGA strike sign I've seen yet. #SupportWGA #WGAonstrike

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