Letter from New York
Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., (www.intermat.tv)
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. Its 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; weve gone and done that Thermo
Nuclear War thing and everyone is going: uh oh.
All this brouhaha is about residuals from DVDs and new
technologies. The writers want more and the producers dont
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 arent watching
television the way the industry wants them to
Its confusing for everyone and at the same time it is
confusing, it is exhilarating. Were seeing a communications
revolution happen in front of our eyes, aided by dazzling
toys like the I-Phone. Its demonstrated what most in
the U.S. have scoffed at: that video on a portable device
doesnt 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? Whats
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
weve only got a few years, youre going to damn
well pay well for the few years Im 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 its just that the speed at which its
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. Its 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! Its
all changing so quickly and so dramatically that anyone in
media who isnt anxious needs to adjust the dosages of
While most of the media world was worrying about the writers
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.