For years now, there has been talk about many A-list writers shunning broadcast TV in favor of cable and streaming series because of the fewer limitations and bigger creative freedom they could get there. That has been reflected in the WGA Awards nominations over the past five years, with the number of broadcast entries dwindling, pushed out by cable and SVOD originals.
The trend culminated this year with no nomination for a broadcast series in the top series categories – Drama Series, Comedy Series and New Series — the first time network TV has been completely shut out. What’s more, there were no broadcast nominations in the two longform categories, Long Form Original and Long Form Adapted, with the traditional nets represented in the live-action field only with three Episodic Comedy noms for NBC’s now-canceled The Carmichael Show, the revival of Will & Grace and Trial & Error.
For comparison, last year NBC’s This Is Us was nominated for New Series (it also won for Episodic Drama), with longform noms for ABC’s American Crime and Madoff. There were a total of 6 WGA Awards nomination in the primetime live-action categories for broadcsat shows last year vs. 3 this year.
The last time there were broadcast Comedy Series nominees was 2013 when the category was actually dominated by network entries — three out of five — 30 Rock, Modern Family and Parks & Recreation. The last time a broadcast program cracked the the Drama Series category was in 2014 with CBS’ The Good Wife.
While This Is Us this year became the first network series to land a best drama series Emmy nomination since The Good Wife in 2011, the hot NBC family drama was not able to brake broadcast’s dry spell in the WGA Drama Series category.
It is true that a number of top broadcast creators/showrunners have jumped to cable with such praised series as Homeland (24‘s Howard Gordon) and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (30 Rock‘s Tina Fey), and ABC maven Shonda Rhimes also recently made the leap to Netflix. They are joined by feature scribes too.
But there is also the argument often raised by broadcast networks and studios: Is it completely fair to compare writing for broadcast and cable/digital? On broadcast TV, the writing teams have to churn out 18-24 scripts a season for a drama series in a very condensed time frame. On the comedy side, that number usually is 22-24 episodes. In cable and digital, the seasons usually consist of 8-13 episodes, with a lot more time to craft them.
This is a discussion that will likely continue as broadcast continues to face an uphill battle in getting awards recognition and to attract top creators.But getting a big, broad network hit like This Is Us, The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, Empire a couple of years ago and The Good Doctor this fall is still considered a reward worth pursuing.
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SAG-AFTRA has issued a strong statement in support of a “free and unencumbered press” nine days after President Donald Trump threatened to strip networks of their broadcast licenses.“As a union whose membership includes broadcast and online journalists, SAG-AFTRA champions the rights of a free press, whose primary role is to provide citizens with the information they need to effectively govern a democracy,” the union said.“These rights are guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which establishes that the press shall be free from government interference in the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions. SAG-AFTRA, journalists and non-journalists alike, supports a free and unencumbered press and stands with any journalist who might find his or her ability to report on our government challenged or compromised.”SAG-AFTRA did not mention Trump by name. He threatened on Oct. 11 to challenge the broadcast licenses of “NBC and the Networks” after NBC reported that Trump asked about a tenfold increase in U.S. nuclear arsenal. Trump called the report “pure fiction, made up to demean” and added, “NBC = CNN.”
SAG-AFTRA said Friday that it was “re-emphasizing” its Feb. 20 statement about the free press “in light of recent threats to ‘challenge’ the licenses of broadcast news outlets.”
The union, which has 160,000 members, also elaborated in its statement on the role of the press.
“SAG-AFTRA believes first and foremost that citizens in a democracy need the truth. Furthermore, SAG-AFTRA believes that journalists have an obligation to monitor and question those in power, pointing out wrongdoing when they find it, noting when facts asserted are not supported by evidence, and reporting inconsistencies in the positions of public figures.
“As working professionals, members of the news media have an obligation to verify the accuracy of what they report, with loyalty only to their readers, listeners and viewers and not to any political party, affiliation, or ideology. As a proud labor union representing more than 160,000 broadcasters, actors and entertainers SAG-AFTRA stands with all of its members in ensuring that the basic rights of a free and independent press continue to be upheld.”
To me what’s scarier than Fake news is a Flake President…especially one with his finger on the nuclear weapon button!
Telemundo actors have voted to unionize with SAG-AFTRA, the union announced Wednesday from Tampa, a victory that comes against a backdrop of difficult times for unions and for Latinos in the US, as well as what the union said was “an aggressive anti-union campaign” by the network, a unit of Comcast and NBC Universal.
The vote tally was 91 to 21, out of 148 ballots that were sent out on February 7, union spokespeople said. The union said that about 500 performers per year work on Telemundo’s telenovelas, but voting eligibility was limited to those who had worked at least a certain number of days on such programs last year.
The balloting came after a January decision by the National Labor Relations Board that ordered the vote to proceed. The union said that this was the largest union election for actors since the 1950s. The vote marks a significant step forward in the union’s campaign to organize and represent Spanish-speaking performers who — unlike their English-speaking counterparts at sister network NBC — do not receive union protections, residuals or union pension and health benefits.
The company is now obligated to negotiate with the union.
Studios, networks and production companies in English-language media usually accept SAG-AFTRA jurisdiction as a matter of course — when was the last time a new NBC scripted series declined to sign with union? — but Telemundo’s refusal to do so meant that the ballot procedure was the union’s only avenue.
According to the NLRB decision, the eligible actors — or “bargaining unit,” in labor law parlance — are “All ‘elenco estelar’ (main cast actors), including ‘protagonistas’ (protagonists), ‘antagonistas’ (antagonists), and ‘principales’ (supporting actors), guest stars, ‘figurantes’ (day players), singers, dancers, and stunt persons on scripted dramatic programing produced in the United States.”
Those persons must have worked in such positions on at least fifteen working days during a one year period, or for at least five working days during a one year period on at least two productions. Excluded are “all other employees, background performers (extras), stunt coordinators, puppeteers, airline pilots, guard and supervisors.”
Telemundo has surged in prime-time ratings largely due to the success of its telenovelas and other scripted dramatic programming and the network now bills itself as a top four TV network in the US.
Photo selected by Watchdog. Following article from LA Times:
Social media stars are helping Hollywood reach younger audiences, for a price!
By Yvonne Villarreal and Daniel Miller
Inside a cavernous soundstage on the Universal Studios lot, a new kind of production was underway on the set of the NBC comedy “Superstore.”
Five social media sensations — including Vine star Splack — were recently crafting 30-second videos to post on their social media channels ahead of the comedy’s second season return. Each made sure to mention “Superstore,” which centers on employees of a big-box retailer, and its Sept. 22 premiere.
As networks and studios struggle to reach young audiences in an increasingly fragmented media marketplace, many have turned to so-called influencers — online stars whose value is measured by the size of their Internet followings — as a means of generating awareness.
Advertisers are seizing on the tactic in an era of commercial-skipping and ad-blockers. Word of mouth in the digital age means messages travel faster by way of social media. The majority of consumers worldwide — or 66%, according to a 2015 Nielsen survey — trust online recommendations from online stars such as Splack.
His video focused on an ex-girlfriend who is trying to show off her new boyfriend while the social star works his shift as an employee of the show’s fictional retailer, Cloud 9.
“I tried to think of things that were trending and relatable,” said Jean “Splack” Robert, 30. “You can never go wrong with relationships.”
The video has nabbed more than 690,000 views on Instagram and more than 300 comments. And when “Superstore” premiered, it did so to higher ratings than the Season One finale.
Part of what makes influencers powerful is that their followers feel they have a deeper, more intimate connection to them.
— Rachel Fletcher, supervisor of digital strategy for RPA
Studio and network executives say they work with influencers to build brand awareness and buzz in a more intimate way through the friend-like connections consumers feel toward the online personalities they follow.
“Part of what makes influencers powerful is that their followers feel they have a deeper, more intimate connection to them — understandable when you think of how many of them started out broadcasting from their own living room,” said Rachel Fletcher, supervisor of digital strategy for advertising and marketing agency RPA.
Media and entertainment companies including Walt Disney Co., NBCUniversal and Sony Pictures Entertainment have developed strategies to connect their projects with influencers.
“I believe this is the very beginning,” said Eric Galen, an attorney who focuses on the digital space and represents Jack & Jack, a pop duo with a big online following. “We are going to see increasingly more money spent by advertisers and studios on these kinds of activations and social media promotions.”
Influencers typically have thousands of followers on social media and online content platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Vine and Snapchat. At the upper echelon, they count many millions of people who tune in daily to watch them. Some make a spectacle of their daily routine, sharing videos of their trips to the grocery store or dinner dates. Others have built careers on performances — making comedy sketches, reviewing video games, performing magic tricks and teaching cooking lessons, among other pursuits.
When in the employ of studios, their efforts can be as a simple as tweeting about a film or more involved endeavors like the marketing push for “Superstore.”
Entertainment companies declined to discuss how much they pay influencers. But several experts said their pay ranges from a few thousand dollars to several million. Some simply receive gift baskets instead of compensation.
Over the last year or so, some entertainment companies have begun to cast influencers in their TV and film projects. The strategy is a bit of a gamble: It’s a nascent business model, and questions remain about the effectiveness of using these personalities to boost a show’s ratings — or help open a movie.
Just how much influence the influencers have is hard to measure. TV ratings and box-office returns do not reveal what prompted a viewer to tune in — leading some entertainment companies to read the tea leaves of “likes” and “favorites.”
What if we went a step further and put someone in the movie, but what if we animate them and their personality?
“Superstore,” for example, experienced a ratings uptick for its premiere, bringing in 5.45 million viewers, up 16% from the first season finale. Its influencer-centric digital marketing plan also included an NBC-produced video short that played off the premiere plot — which finds store employees on strike — and featured the five social media stars serving as Cloud 9 strikebreakers. The videos produced for the campaign garnered 3.1 million cumulative views, as well as over 200,000 social media engagements.
“One of the reasons we go with influencers is because we can look at the likes, shares, comments around those videos,” said Jared Goldsmith, senior vice president of marketing strategy and digital at NBC. “In terms of how it translates back directly to ratings or video views — it’s not easy to quantify.”
What is clear is that these personalities aren’t necessarily getting the work because of their acting chops, but often because of their Internet followings.
In early 2015, about a year before Disney was set to release “Zootopia,” studio executives discussed the possibility of adding an influencer to the animated movie’s voice cast.
“What if we went a step further and put someone in the movie, but what if we animate them and their personality?” said Andre Fonseca, vice president of digital marketing at Walt Disney Studios, recalling discussions at the time.
Disney ultimately cast Zach King, a social media star who performs magic tricks, in a small lupine role in the film (he voiced Muzzled Wolf). Disney also created an animated clip that showed King’s character performing the sort of illusion that the social star is known for — jumping through the bars of a jail cell. King posted the clip, which showed both he and his animated character performing the feat, to his Instagram account. It was viewed 7.6 million times and generated more than 8,000 comments.
“Zootopia,” released in March, has grossed more than $1 billion worldwide.
“Our main [return on investment] metric on an influencer program is reach and awareness. Just taking that number from Instagram, that was a very, very strong return on investment,” Fonseca said. “How we view it is, his audience is mostly in the 13-24 wheelhouse, and for an animated film, that is a tricky demographic to reach — and reach effectively.”
Fonseca said that this sort of effort is already being considered for future Disney films.
Fans are definitely aware when they’re being baited with promotional posts. It has to be something that is natural and fits with the persona of the creator.
— Zach King
Universal Pictures also inserted influencers into the 2015 hit “Pitch Perfect 2” — and expects to continue doing so in future projects. When it came time to cast the comedy, Universal tapped Pentatonix, an a cappella group with a strong social media following.
“That was suggested from the marketing side,” said Doug Neil, executive vice president of digital marketing for Universal Pictures. “We saw the value of having a really strong online music sensation in the film because of their large following.”
Pentatonix and its individual members promoted the film on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, generating more than 250,000 engagements. “Pitch Perfect 2,” released in May 2015, grossed $288 million worldwide.
Television, meanwhile, for years has been at the forefront of looking to the digital space for talent or ideas that could translate on the small screen. (In 2010, for example, CBS debuted “$#*! My Dad Says,” which was based on a Twitter feed.) Now, TV’s pioneering efforts include influencers.
When CBS’ “The Amazing Race” entered its 28th season, it looked to stave off viewership declines by stocking up its cast with influencers from YouTube, Vine and Instagram, including Cole LaBrant, Cameron Benson and King of “Zootopia.”
Follow the money! Sadly, more and more, these days for union actors it leads to the unemployment line!
The Ol’ SAG Watchdog
*Photo selected by Watchdog
**Happy birthday to former SAG President Alan Rosenberg!
Telemundo Refuses to Air SAG-AFTRA Ad About language Equity
10:09 AM PDT 8/26/2016
by Jonathan Handel
The union wants Spanish-speaking performers at the Comcast-owned network to receive the same pay and benefits as counterparts at sister company NBC, but the broadcaster refuses to air an anti-Telemundo spot.
SAG-AFTRA has upped the pressure in its campaign to unionize Telemundo by airing a 30 second advocacy spot on Spanish-language stations in Miami, New York and Los Angeles, after Telemundo itself refused to air the ad.
“Telemundo’s decision to censor 30 seconds of truthful commentary about its working conditions shows just how averse it is to having a transparent discussion about its refusal to fairly compensate Spanish-speaking performers,” said the union in a statement. “SAG-AFTRA’s goal is to ensure all talent, regardless of their race, ethnicity or language, have fair wages and certain protections. As a leading voice for the Hispanic American community, this should be Telemundo’s priority as well.”
A Telemundo spokesperson responded, “After legal review, we have concluded the ad did not pass legal standards for issue based advertisement.”
The union’s organizing campaign underscores that while Telemundo has declined to sign a union agreement, its sister companies, such as NBC and Universal, have long been union signatories. All are subsidiaries of NBCUniversal and ultimately Comcast, which has fought unions in its cable TV operations.
Said the Telemundo spokesperson, “At Telemundo we support our employees’ right to join and not to join a union. Our talent and employees are capable of deciding what is in their own best interest. For that reason we believe our talent should exercise their freedom of choice to join a union or not, in a secret ballot election, a democratic process established by the National Labor Relations Board.
According to SAG-AFTRA, Telemundo pays Spanish-speaking performers less than half of their English-speaking counterparts at NBC, does not pay residuals and doesn’t provide health benefits or other protections provided to English-speaking performers at NBC.
“We remain committed to making Telemundo a great place to work for our employees and will continue to invest in them to ensure their salaries and working conditions are competitive,” said the network’s spokesperson. “We are dedicated to Telemundo’s long term success, which has created hundreds of high-value jobs and provided a valuable service to the Hispanic community in the United States.”
In addition to airing the spot on Mega TV and Estrella TV, among others, the union also launched the ad in English and Spanish on its website and social media channels.
SAG-AFTRA noted that Telemundo recently claiming the top ratings spot over Univision for the last five consecutive weeks, for the first time in the network’s history. According to the union, in an internal letter dated August 17, 2016, Telemundo President Cesar Conde credited talent with helping the network reach this new milestone, saying: “This is a historic achievement of which we are all very proud. Clearly, Telemundo talent has played a very important role in this achievement.”
Updated 8/28/2016 7:40 p.m. PT with Telemundo response
You movie buffs will understand the parody headline selected by Me! For the rest of you–you might want to checkout one of my favorite movies “Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”