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NBC Universal files complaint over webisode dispute with WGA

by Joel Keller, posted Aug 18th 2006 7:40PM
The Office: The AccountantsYou know those fun little webisodes of The Office that have been showing on NBC.com? It seems like the Writer Guild of America has a big problem with them. They've told writers and producers who are working on these webisodes and webisodes of Battlestar Galactica to stop working on them because they should be compensated for that work. NBC Universal, who produces both shows, have filed a complaint with National Labor Relations Board, claiming that this writing is included in the current WGA contract. According to NBCU, there has been very little production work done on webisodes since June because of the WGA's protests.

The fact that the WGA has been able to get cooperation from producers, who aren't in the union, makes it seem like they may have a pretty legitimate complaint. The network thinks the webisodes are for promotion purposes only; if they don't make money on them, they claim, they can't justify paying people extra to do them. But to me, that doesn't wash; I had to watch an annoying FedEx ad before the last Office webisode started, so they must be making some money. And if they're making money, so should the creative team, even if it's only a few hundred bucks. It's only fair.

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Producers who are also writers, are memebers of the WGA. Most show runners are writers, so are also members of the WGA.

Plus, if one union halts work, usually the other unions honor that.

Writers don't get residuals from DVD. The WGA previously negotiated for a lump sum one time payment to writers for DVDs. (I don't recall the dollar figure.)

The webisodes may fall into the series cannon, and be of a high quality of writing and production, but they are not charging to watch them (as they are for full eps from iTunes, Google, or their own sites.) So, these things fall into a grey area between advertisments for the show, and actual episdoes. But, clearly they are doing them for promotion.

In the case of Galactica the webisodes are meant to fill in the long gap between the end of season 2 and the start of season 3, and to ramp up interest in season 3 in the weeks before season 3 starts.

Sounds like advertisment to me.

August 19 2006 at 7:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Actually, producers DO get paid to produce promos. And actors might not get paid to do "silly promo shoots," but whenever they're given lines to "act," you bet they get paid. But I agree with Toby, the webisodes aren't just promos. They include storylines that have to be broken and that ultimately fit into the mythology of the series. It's work that fits outside the general duties of a writer/producer. (Because if they were just "commercials" intended for promotional purposes only, then the promotion/marketing departments at the studio would write them, and that would fit within their job description. But these are scripts, hence the writers should get paid, and so should the actors. Some sort of "webisode minimums agreement" needs to be figured out.

August 18 2006 at 11:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

But they DO get paid for those already. And all of them put together would make about one episode, plus NBC isn't making that much from them. The entire reason they're doing it is for promotion. If NBC knew they'd have to pay the same amount as a regular episode for something that only about 1/4 of the normal audience would watch, and that they couldn't sell more than one advertisement on, they just wouldn't do it.

And you know what? If they were doing this for a DVD, nobody would be saying jack. And let's not forget that they'll get residuals when these webisodes go on a future DVD set, too.

I can understand worrying about the future, and possibly releasing a series ONLY on the Internet, and worrying about how they'll get paid then. But this is not that time, and this is not that kind of exploitation.

August 18 2006 at 10:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Of course they should be paid. They are working.

August 18 2006 at 10:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Toby OB

These aren't just promos; they're basically additional stories that make up the canon of the series. And more than likely they'll end up in some future DVD boxed set collection.

Everybody involved should be paid more for the work then, as there will be more money made because of them.

August 18 2006 at 9:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Jones

Don't agree.

Do producers get paid to write promos? Do actors get paid to do silly promo shoots? NO.

A. it is part of their job.
B. they DO get money, if the show is promoted - it gets more viewers, they get more money.

They're whiny people. 'OH NO, please give me more money. I need to upgrade my vault to hold all my diamonds!'.

August 18 2006 at 9:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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