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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.

November 8, 2007

Thinking about lions and tigers and bears!

Well, it happened. What? What happened? The Writers Guild of America went out on strike against the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers. It’s been building for weeks with both sides posturing and posing and making it almost impossible to do anything BUT strike.

Now the strike has come; we’ve gone and done that Thermo Nuclear War thing and everyone is going: uh oh.

All this brouhaha is about residuals from DVD’s and new technologies. The writers want more and the producers don’t want to give it to them. The writers point out that their work is now proliferating on multiple platforms and so they should be paid. The producers are saying that the multiple platforms are simply replacing older, fading ones and no new revenues are being created. Plus, who the hell knows what all this new media stuff means? Not anyone though everyone knows that the viewing habits of the world are being radically changed by new technologies and no one is quite sure how the game is being played out. 79% of adults in the U.S. are on-line; broadband is building and younger folks just aren’t watching television the way the industry wants them to…

It’s confusing for everyone and at the same time it is confusing, it is exhilarating. We’re seeing a communications revolution happen in front of our eyes, aided by dazzling toys like the I-Phone. It’s demonstrated what most in the U.S. have scoffed at: that video on a portable device doesn’t suck. They showed it with the I Pod and have topped it with the I-Phone. [So why Steve Jobs did you get into business with AT&T? You gave the most elegant phone to the worst service.]

And at the same time no one can see far enough into the future to determine how all of this is going to play out financially. The old models are fading – or are they? What’s to become of seasoned writers when college jocks are getting famous on YouTube for dumping Mentos into Coke bottles? Also, the careers of television writers are becoming precariously truncated. According to one article I read the life of a television writer these days is less than that of some rodents. So if we’ve only got a few years, you’re going to damn well pay well for the few years I’m here. But then only a very small percentage of writers in the Guild are actually working; the Guild unemployment statistics rival those of some African states torn apart by civil war. The picket lines, now out inNew York and LA, are probably manned mostly by those who earn the least.

All of which goes back to the point that the business is changing and the rapidity of its changing is accelerating. Traditional media advertising is going to grow in low single digits for the next few years while that of online entities, especially video sharing sites, are projected to grow at 20 plus percent a year. Major advertisers like P&G are siphoning money from old media into new. Oh my! The sky is falling.

And you know what, it is. But then the media sky is often falling – it’s just that the speed at which it’s changing is getting dazzling. Radio gave way to television which suffered the pangs of cable, all of which are now dodging the slings and arrows of the broadband upstarts.

Google is about to stretch its wings into the mobile arena by releasing next year a software package [rather ominously called ‘Android’] that allows mobile users to utilize Google on their phones. It’s enough to give Microsoft and Apple a stomach ache.

Sony has released a teeny tiny VAIO that can compete with most laptops. The wireless world is getting smaller and smarter and faster and oh my: lions and tigers and bears! It’s all changing so quickly and so dramatically that anyone in media who isn’t anxious needs to adjust the dosages of their anti-depressants.

While most of the media world was worrying about the writer’s strike we failed to take much note of the fact that far above, in space, the crew of the Shuttle and Space Station risked lives to a repair a solar panel. Their success was barely noted. We should give them better shrift; without the space program our current media mania would not exist.