With a week to go before WGA members begin voting on a new code of conduct that act as a fatal silver bullet through the heart of the agencies’ lucrative packaging plans, UTA tried to strap on a new Kevlar vest of data Wednesday.
In a pithy 10-page TV Writing Data Analysis released this morning seeking to shatter the guild’s narrative in the fiery dispute over a new franchise agreement, the Jeremy Zimmer-run agency declares that “UTA TV writer clients earn more money, on average on shows that UTA packages than on shows that the agency does not package.”
This tailored report (read it here) comes one day after WME president Ari Greenburg sent out a PR salvo of his own to clients proclaiming that sit-downs with the guild weren’t going anywhere. In another attempt to lure writers away from guild doctrine, the exec also promised more town halls with writers in the coming days and “more communication and transparency” as the April 6 expiration of the current Association of Talent Agents-WGA pact beckons.
Last week, Zimmer penned an emotionally charged letter to his agency’s writer clients that acknowledged the 10% commission crowd aren’t “saints,” in the first clear move of the Big 4 agencies to directly counter the packaging-as-theft plotline the WGA has honed. In seeking to recalibrate, Zimmer also slashed the guild for its supposed insistence that “there will be no negotiation or even discussion of their proposals regarding packaging or affiliate companies” over the new code of conduct’s aim to have writers fire their reps if UTA, WME, CAA, and ICM Partners and others don’t toss packaging onto the deal dust heap.
The UTA CEO also asserted in his March 11 email that we “owe you data about packaging to show you that their claims are false and our business does benefit clients.”
Which is what today’s analysis aims to achieve.
Sampled over the past three small-screen seasons, the report claims the $338,514 average gross client income per assignment that UTA-repped scribes earn on shows the agency packages is a 7% increase over what they would earn for a non-packaged show. The cold data also alleges that the average net client income per episode that UTA writers earn is up 16% from non-packaged shows.
WGA West president David A. Goodman responded to the UTA report by saying that it was based on a “false premise.”
“The agencies say that stagnation for lower and mid-level writers is not the result of packaging, that the data proves that writers working on agency-packaged shows are not disadvantaged,” Goodman said. “This is a false premise. There is no way to compare what writers would make in a world with agency packaging and without agency packaging. Agency packaging is so dominant that it controls the whole market for writers in television. Besides the Disney Channel, virtually all shows are packaged.”
Hoping to dive past the heated emotions the WGA is successfully fanning, the Civic Center Drive-based UTA is clearing aiming for the bottom line in its research. Simply put, UTA claims its writer clients “saved an average $2,439 of per episode in commission across every show that UTA packages. Or put it broadly, from high-end paid showrnners to mid- and lower-level scribes, that’s real cash in your penmanship.
At the same time, when you break down the data to mid- and lower-level titled writers, the per-episode savings is statistically almost the same, UTA’s data reveals, which isn’t really an arrow in anyone’s arsenal or narrative.
Of course, with no new talks between the ATA and the WGA officially on the books and every agency pledging more outreach leading up to and beyond next week’s vote, the PR ball is now back in the guild’s court.
Game changer on!