As Tyler Aquilina says: With the performers of SAG-AFTRA now joining Hollywood writers on the picket lines, it’s clear that the ultimate resolution of this crisis will be decisive for the future of the entertainment industry and its workers. Whatever contracts are hammered out once bargaining between the guilds and the studios resumes will likely set the standard for Hollywood’s new compensation models going forward.

The big studios will do anything to keep the world from seeing that modern generations don’t want to watch the pandering, woke crap produced by the good old boys of Hollywood. Their play to the lowest common denominator has been an epic failure…bigger than usual. Only independent production can save media now. Nobody needs actors and set builders. AI will do it all, for less money, from now on.

“influencers” are never going to save media. Every single one of them are self-centered, narcissist school girls and frat boys that think the world revolves around them and eventually suicide…not a good business model.

As VIP+ has argued, the paramount economic issue at stake here is streaming residual payments, which will form the backbone of entertainment industry workers’ compensation in the years to come. At the heart of this dispute is streamers’ reluctance (to put it mildly) to share data quantifying viewership of content on their SVOD platforms; the studios have evidently refused to engage on the issue of success-based residuals for such content.

Under their now-expired agreements, SAG-AFTRA and WGA streaming residuals are calculated based on a service’s domestic subscriber totals, with a sliding scale of tiers determining the amount talent will be paid. Contractual residual bases are multiplied by the corresponding “subscriber tier” percentage as well as another percentage based on how many years it’s been since the content in question was released.

In other words, unlike the methods used to calculate TV residuals for decades, there is no accounting for the performance of hits in this model, and the studios are evidently unwilling to change that. The new contract the Directors Guild negotiated with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) contained no provision for success-based residuals, instead simply increasing required payments and adding a new formula to better account for international subscribers.

Yet any subscriber-based formula already looks antiquated, given that subscriber totals are no longer the chief arbiter of success in the streaming business. And as that business continues to mature, basing residual payments on this metric will become less and less effective as a compensation model, as streaming transforms into a stable, long-term business supported largely by advertising — transforms, in other words, into something more like television.

The bitter irony here is that studios clearly know they can’t keep a black box around streaming viewership data forever. All the major-studio SVODs now participate in Nielsen’s streaming ratings system, which measures only viewing on TV screens in the U.S., and are also actively exploring alternative ratings currencies to better measure viewership across all types of screens and platforms.

The larger issue, and perhaps an under-discussed contributor to the current unrest, is that despite the studios’ reticence to share their own data, there is also no standard third-party streaming viewership metric they can agree to utilize, and currently no simple number that quantifies the success of streaming content.

“There is not a good, consistent streaming metric of success for [SVOD] shows, and that is a huge problem,” Variety Senior TV Reporter Joe Otterson said during last week’s VIP+ webinar on the strikes. “If you say, ‘On Thursday night at 9:00, 10 million people tuned in to watch this show on CBS,’ people can wrap their minds around what that means in terms of the success of that show….But when you tell someone, ‘This show has been watched for 95 million hours since it was released two weeks ago’? I cannot wrap my mind [around] or contextualize exactly what that means.”

SAG-AFTRA reportedly attempted a compromise on this front, suggesting data from Parrot Analytics be used to calculate streaming content’s popularity and contribution to services’ revenues, a proposal the studios rejected.

However, this gets no closer to a true solution to the problem, as Parrot’s “demand” metric is a poor proxy for streaming viewership data to tie to residuals. There are too many factors at play in these scores — social media engagement, search engine activity, piracy — that reflect audience interest in a title but are not concretely tied to actual viewership on a streaming platform.

How, then, should the guilds and the AMPTP compromise? Perhaps the search for a third-party viewing metric for ad-supported content could be a bridge to measuring ad-free programming as well? Some of the studios this year launched a Joint Industry Committee to vet and certify new audience-measurement technologies for the purpose of establishing a standard currency for advertisers; if the studios want to reach a compromise to end the strikes, one would think they could invest in landing on a metric that would work for the guilds too.

The problem, however, is that the major players can’t even agree on what metrics to use, or even whether new metrics should be used at all: Disney and Netflix, for instance, plan on sticking with Nielsen and aren’t involved in the JIC. Meanwhile, the other studios are unhappy with Nielsen’s audience measurements (hence the search for new currencies), and likely wouldn’t agree to have any success metric tied to Nielsen data.

But the fact remains that a measurement system will, eventually, need to be agreed on. As noted, advertising will only become more important to the streaming business in the years ahead as subscriber totals continue to plateau, and advertisers will need a standardized streaming viewership metric to measure the reach and impact of their investments.

If this won’t crack open the doors of streamers’ own data vaults, it will at least shine a brighter light on streaming viewership, and weaken the studios’ case for keeping this data in the dark. Of course, the streamers would almost certainly prefer to keep data strictly shared with advertisers, but more data being shared means more potential for leakage, and again, would dilute the studios’ argument for keeping such data from the guilds.

In other words, we’re likely moving toward an era of greater data transparency whether the studios like it or not, and the guild negotiators would do well to keep that in mind when contract talks eventually restart.

Author: swmof88