It’s only a matter of time before late-night cracks the streaming model.
Chelsea, hosted by Chelsea Handler, and Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj opened the door for late-night shows on Netflix, followed by a second wave of streaming originals such as Apple TV+’s The Problem with Jon Stewart and Peacock’s The Amber Ruffin Show.
The latter two shows did not exist the last time there was a negotiation between the WGA and the AMPTP.
But in 2020, the writers guild did attempt to help scribes working for streaming comedy-variety shows by lobbying for WGA minimums to apply.
At the time, the WGA’s negotiating committee said, that “comedy-variety is perhaps the oldest television genre and it’s still going strong with more new shows being produced now than in any time in recent memory. And for the past few years this genre has been quite popular on subscriber streaming platforms.”
They weren’t successful but they’re back with another attempt, as per the latest Pattern of Demands unveiled earlier this week. Once again, the WGA wants to get rid of entirely negotiable rates. “Apply MBA minimums to comedy variety programs made for new media,” the WGA said.
In the linear world, the minimum for a writer working on a late-night show was $4,282 per week in 2017, rising to $4,566 in 2020 and $4,785 in 2023. However, there are discounts applied, up to 20%, for those on longer contracts, which is traditional in late night.
This doesn’t exist in streaming, however, and the WGA is attempting to bring parity to writers who may find themselves working there in the future which, given the fact the linear world is contracting, is only a matter of time when more shows that look like CBS’ The Late Show, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, NBC’s The Tonight Show or HBO’s Last Week Tonight become commonplace as streaming originals.
One late-night source told Deadline that while it’s not a huge issue right now, given the number of late-night shows on streaming, who knows what the future will look like. It’s not too dissimilar to why the WGA is protecting writers against AI.
John August, a member of the WGA negotiating committee who has written screenplays including 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, said on his Scriptnotes podcast. “Let’s say you’re a writer, on a late-night show for NBC, you have this full set of WGA rates for how much you need to be paid as a writer on that show. But if you were doing the exact same job for a show on Peacock or Netflix, there are no minimums. They could pay you in pizza and beer. It’s crazy,” he said.
Ashley Gable, a co-exec producer on shows such as Magnum P.I. and Designated Survivor, became a member of the WGA negotiating committee in November. “We need minimums for comedy/variety content on SVOD,” she noted in her campaign statement. “We need a lot of things, and we will have to marshal all our power to get them.”
Erica Saleh, a member of the WGA East Council and showrunner of Peacock’s One of Us is Lying, agreed. “We need to fight for the issues unique to Comedy Variety (lack of minimums on SVOD and discounts on long-term work – truly WTF), she wrote.
These rates also apply to sketch shows. Although there are fewer sketch shows on air at the moment than over the last few years, as evidenced by recent lackluster Emmy races, Netflix still has I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson and the genre is cyclical, so you can imagine a return to more shows like HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show as the world continues its move to streaming.
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