Here are the highlights/lowlights from the just-issued 2011 Writers Guild, West annual report examining 2010. However, one of the biggest complaints I hear from working writers is that the major and minor studios aren’t paying residuals in a timely fashion. Collections just aren’t what they should be. That said, the WGAW claims it’s “an all-time high.” But the bad news is that the number of writers reporting income declined 4.5%:
— 2010 was a mixed year for writers. Although earnings for WGAW members decreased in 2010, residuals collected by the WGA reached an all-time high. Earnings totaled $928 million in 2010, a 2.9% decrease from 2009, and the number of writers reporting income from covered services declined 4.5% to 4,244. On the other hand, for the first time ever aggregate residuals receipts topped $300 million.
— Earnings of television writers grew in 2010 to $532.1 million, a new high that is 2.9% more than the last year’s record earnings. Total television employment, however, retracted somewhat in 2010, with a 1.1% decrease to 3,142, about 6% lower than the recent high-employment level of 3,350 in 2007 and 19.5% lower than the all-time high of 3,903 in 2000.
— The fluctuating nature of employment in feature film writing continued in 2010, with 1,615 writers reporting earnings compared to 1,818 in 2009. Earnings decreased 9.9% over 2009.
— Residuals collected by the WGA in 2010 increased by a healthy 10% over 2009, to an all time high of $315.81 million. This is the first year that receipts exceeded $300 million. Residuals increased in both television and screen, with both areas reaching record high collection totals.
— Television was the stronger area, increasing 12.8% to $160.43 million. The continuing highlight was reuse of programs made for basic cable, which increased 32.5% to $20.94 million. This area has shown sustained growth throughout the past five years, increasing an average of 25 percent per year. The second most notable increase came in foreign reuse of television programs, which increased 18.9% to $29.49 million. Primetime reuse increased 4.6% due to more repeats on the networks. Home video reuse of television program retrenched, but pay television use, mostly foreign, grew. New-media reuse grew 23.7% to $2.63 million in the third year of collections in that area.
— Total feature film residuals grew 6.1 percent to a total of $141.78 million. DVD and Blu-ray revenue dropped to 3.2% to $40.57 million. But this was more than offset by an increase in pay television residuals worldwide, which grew 17.2% to $54.29 million. New media grew to $1.22 million.