UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer told his writer-clients Wednesday night that they won’t be the only artists affected if the WGA gets its way and puts the agencies out of the packaging business. “These decisions impact a broad section of the TV ecosystem,” he wrote on Tuesday in a message to the agency’s writers. “Lots of people will be affected. The WGA is trying to make a decision for everyone by eliminating everyone’s choice.”
“There is so much change and uncertainty in our business today, and we owe you a transparent and consistent relationship,” he wrote. “We also have the concerns and trust of our actor, director, cinematographer, and other clients to consider. They deserve choice as well. A unilateral abandonment of packaging adversely affects our writers who may not wish to pay commission, and it also forces other artists on shows to also pay commission.”
Earlier, UTA released a report that found that its writer clients, on average, made more money under packaged deals that unpackaged ones. This was disputed by WGA president David A. Goodman, who said that the report was based on a “false premise,” and that “there is no way to compare what writers would make in a world with agency packaging and without agency packaging.”
Zimmer, however, said “that’s not true. In fact, we’ve done just that as it relates to UTA and our TV writer clients. There is an abundance of data available to measure writer income and the relationship to packaging, and we are providing it here. Real data.”
That data, he said, was drawn from more than 2,000 total writing assignments, accounting for more than 30,000 total episodes, and encompassing the three most recently completed TV seasons.
According to Zimmer, that analysis reveals “When waived commissions on TV packages are taken into account, our TV writer clients actually earn north of $3,000 more per episode on shows we package than on shows we don’t.”
At UTA, he said, “packages are driving more opportunities and generating more money for TV writers than straight commission deals, and the data shows clearly that there is no economic bias or institutional trend working against TV writers who work on projects we package versus those we don’t package.”
That data, he said, also shows that “Negotiated fees per episode for TV writers on UTA-packaged shows are higher than those on shows the agency does not package.”
The WGA and the Association of Talent Agents return to the bargaining table on Thursday to try to hammer out a new franchise agreement. WGA members will start voting next week to approve a new Code of Conduct. If a new deal isn’t reached by April 6, the guild is prepared to tell its members that they must fire any agents who don’t sign the Code.