New Media: For Promotional Use Only?   

A screen capture of the HULU website.I’ve had a beta membership to Hulu for at least a month now (I know because I got the email with my login information not long after the strike began) but I have yet to try it out. And, yes, that’s because of the strike. I feel a little dirty watching online extras much less entire episodes of shows. I haven’t really thought about it until this morning when a whedonesque link pointed out that the entire “Our Mrs. Reynolds” episode of Firefly is now available on Hulu. That brought to mind one of the things I don’t understand about the AMPTP’s position on new media. (Well that and the AOL’s In2TV Christmas videos which are full-length older TV Christmas specials and holiday episodes of TV shows including an episode of Scarecrow & Mrs. King. I’m almost ashamed to admit I was hoping the WGA and AMPTP would reach an agreement before Christmas just so I’d be able to watch!)

How exactly can the AMPTP label these type of videos “promotions”? In some ways, I can agree that the little extra things they use on a show’s webpage would be considered promotional work. Naturally people should still get paid for work they do but I can see the validity in claiming that kind of promotional work is worked into, say, an actor’s contract much like photoshoots are. I’m not so sure I can see how you’d claim that about a writer but I don’t know enough about their contractual agreements to know for sure. Have writers always been treated like other talent in that regard? It’s not like they are the public face of a show. Granted, they want it to succeed as much as everyone else but they aren’t exactly recognizable to the public. Anyway, that’s a discussion for another time since it requires me to do some research to be able to talk intelligibly about the issues.

So, yes, I can see the promotions side of the argument when it comes to webisodes or online extras. I can even see how they’d consider allowing people to sample a show by putting one or two select episodes online would be a promotional use of a full episode. However, it begins to make much less sense (read as: no sense at all) when you’re talking about 1) charging for episodes online or 2) offering entire runs or seasons. Especially when those episodes are of shows that are no longer on the air. Now, how exactly, is an episode of Firefly on Hulu promotional? I guess to encourage people to buy the DVDs. Yeah, that makes sense. Except that the AMPTP doesn’t want to give the writers a fair share of those profits either. Huh.

A screen capture of AOL Videos and one of the commercials you have to sit through to watch.Ok, but, fine the writers agreed to a crappy deal on DVDs proceeds in the past so maybe some of the onus is on them for that. What about entire episodes of shows that aren’t out on DVD? Let’s say, for example, the holiday episode of Scarecrow & Mrs. King that I mentioned. As we all know (because I bitch about it way too often), that show’s not available on DVD. It can’t even be found in reruns anywhere on the dial. What is it that qualifies that as promotional? I mean, I had to sit through a SC Johnson & Family commercial and clearly those advertising dollars aren’t being used to promote a show that has been out of production for over 20 years much less airing on any station.

This is my confused face.

So, who gets the dollars being made off of that “promotion”? I can tell you who is not getting any of it, Lloyd Pye. The writer of the episode in question. Why, again, shouldn’t he be getting paid for something that he wrote and is still making money for someone else?

Yeah. So that’s where the new media = promotions argument loses me. What about you?

And, since I’m talking about giving money to the people who deserve/need it, allow me to pass along a link to Cash for the Crew. They are raising money to benefit The Motion Picture & Television Fund’s Work Stoppage Relief Fund, which was established to assist entertainment industry members who are facing financial hardship resulting from the current work stoppage. If you make a donation to the Fund, send Cash for the Crew your donation acknowledgment and you’ll be entered into a raffle for autographed scripts. So you get to help out the people behind some of your favorite shows and possibly win something yourself at the same time. It’s a win-win. Check out the Cash for the Crew site for more info.

5 Responses to “New Media: For Promotional Use Only?”

  1. 1
    afrocurl says:

    I’m with you on getting some of the “promotional” qualities of the online stuff, but then again, I’m not a media mogul out to make millions for myself and billions for my company.

  2. 2
    Rae says:

    Haha, ok, you got me there. I’m not one of those either. But see, I want to see some logic in their side of the argument…. maybe I’m not looking hard enough?

  3. 3
    Eolivet says:

    I understand the promotions argument about current series — if you’re operating on the model that people are using the Internet as a jumping off point to eventually watch their shows on TV. I can even understand how full seasons could be viewed as promotions — if/since the ultimate goal is to get viewers back to the television (i.e., you can’t just jump into S3 of “Lost” without understanding what happened in S1 and S2).

    The canceled series argument makes slightly less sense, because as you said, obviously you’re not trying to drive those viewers to the TV (since the show is no longer on the air).

    The problem is the networks are operating on what appears to be an antiquated business model — one that looked as the Internet as a source of content, but not an ultimate destination. The writers seem to recognize that some viewers have abandoned TV entirely to watch their shows online (“Gossip Girl” and its renewal is proof enough of that).

    On that front, I do sort of understand the AMPTP, since the advertising industry is dealing with that very same shift (which may eventually put us out of business. :x )

  4. 4
    Rae says:

    I’ll agree that they’re working on an antiquated model, to a degree. And by that I mean that they are clearly moving in a direction that indicates that they can see the changes coming. That NBC pulled out of iTunes and moved to Hulu shows that they wanted more control over online content which, to me at least, shows some recognition that having control and dominion over their own new media is going to be important in the near future.

    I don’t think, though, that the advertising industry will ever be put out of business by the Internet. It’ll just have to change and adjust to the new way things are viewed. The reason for its existance isn’t going away so I don’t think it will.

    I also don’t know if I believe people have completely abandoned their TVs to watch shows online. Or, at least, not nearly enough to justify the thought that TVs will go away completely. I think integration is the key. TVs and computers are going to merge (already are) and I think that’s what writers have recognized. (I think the networks probably have too… they just aren’t as willing to accept it because no one likes change, especially when it’s huge enough to completely change how your organization functions or when it deals with something you don’t know. But the fundamentals of business don’t change and a merged media system would still need the building blocks and foundation that the media moguls can bring it.)

  5. 5

    [...] RTVW: This week our TV Advent Calendar featured a bonus Bones scene under the mistletoe and we sounded off about our favorite holiday TV. Plus, Rae wondered how an episode of Scarecrow & Mrs King could still be considered “promotional.” [...]