Earnings by members of the WGA West topped $1.4 billion last year – an all-time record and up nearly 3% from 2016. Earnings from feature films broke though the $400 million barrier for the first time since 2010 – up more than 6% and topping out at nearly $421 million. TV earnings are fast approaching $1 billion a year, coming in at $976 million, though only up 1.4% from the prior year.
“This year’s report continues the positive trends recorded over the last half decade,” the guild said in its annual report. “The Guild remains financially strong, with growing revenues and a healthy operating surplus.”
Despite the strong numbers, the report (read it here) said they do not reflect the “downward pressure on writers’ over-scale income as a result of the growth of short season orders and other changes in the television and digital media industry.” That’s because writer-producers only report the guild minimums – not the over-scale earning they receive. WGA East officials have said that those over-scale payments “are moving downward toward the guild’s minimums.”
According to the report, 5,819 writers reported earnings under the WGA’s contracts last year – 1,940 in film and 4,670 in television and on digital platforms. And those numbers have been on the rise every year since 2012.
Earnings from news, promotion, informational and interactive programming accounted for only $13.1 million, with only 153 writers reporting earnings in this category.
Total residuals from film and television came in at $430.7 million – up 11.8%. TV residuals rose 12.4% to $277.6 million, while film residuals rose 10.7% to $153 million. “Consistent with previous years, television continues to be the stronger area,” the report states. The guild’s residuals department, meanwhile, collected more than $34 million by investigating underpayment or nonpayment of residuals owed to writers.
Pay TV residuals remain the largest dollar category for film, with a 1.7% gain from last year at $52.73 million. Worldwide television is the guild’s second-largest dollar category, with a 10.7% increase from last year at $44.9 million.
And the guild’s legal department collected $5.6 million through the filing of grievance and arbitration claims, which is about half as much as it collected in each of the two prior years, and about a third as much as in 2014. So far this year, it’s collected another $3.2 million.
The guild ended the fiscal year with total net assets of more than $67 million. It had an operating surplus for the fiscal year of $8.2 million based on total revenues of $39.2 million, up from $34.3 million last year. “The surplus was the product of growth in overall writer earnings, led by the television and new media sectors, and by investment gains generated from a strong equities market,” the report states.
Annual expenditures of $31 million were slightly higher than the prior year’s $28.1 million.