The Writers Guild of America (WGA) announced last week that its members would go on strike because they get less work and pay producing content for more shows that air on streaming services.
They also want to make sure AI doesn’t take their jobs away completely.
Streaming shows are bad news for writers. Their seasons run short, so fewer episodes need fewer hours of writing (or fewer writers). They don’t pay residuals that compare to traditional payouts. Sometimes, they don’t pay anything.
The business of visual content creation and distribution is changing, much like it did for music starting with Napster back in the old days. Tech is the disruptor, connecting creators with developers, financiers, producers, and their audiences faster and more immediately.
Chokeholds and inflection points are getting erased, and those are the places where people could charge fees.
Streaming is just a step along this transformation, not the end point. Something else will replace it and my bet is that it’ll look a lot more like the diversified model of live performance, exclusive access, merch, and related content that most bands rely upon.
Shows will become multi-channel properties in which writers will need to assert their roles.
The bigger component of this transformation is AI, which threatens to take those roles away. Come up with story ideas. Draft scenes. Create entire scripts, and then do interviews to promote the content.
AI that doesn’t just render visuals but invents them, too.
Those who suggest that the tech is nowhere near ready to write the next award-winning drama ignore the fact that most shows are more like Gilligan’s Island.
ChatGPT is ready to meet that challenge right now.
The two issues — distribution and AI — are intertwined, and the WGA is fighting a fight that other industries will face, probably sooner vs. later.
Can they demand that human beings keep their jobs? Will audiences care, let alone pay more to support those writers?
Will we be able to tell the difference?