A Separate Letterman Deal is Bad For the WGA

Categories: WGA Strike

Written By

December 16th, 2007

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12/27 UPDATE: Deal announced between Dave and the WGA.
12/22 UPDATE: No deal announced between Dave and the WGA.
12/21 UPDATE: Dave's production company is meeting with the writers today.

12/19 UPDATE: Dave and Craig seem to be headed back on Jan 2, whether they reach a deal with the WGA or not.

With reports that David Letterman's Worldwide Pants production company will pursue a separate deal with the WGA, I can certainly see how it makes sense for Dave. He's reportedly paying $300,000 / week in salaries to his out of work staff (and some guess the total expense is triple that) and he'd get on the air with his writers before any of his competition.

CBS head Les Moonves is likely happy too. His biggest problem right now (although bigger problems loom) with the writer's strike is the lack of new late night shows for his advertisers. A deal to get Dave back on the air would take care of that with little risk to CBS, because Dave's show is owned by Dave's production company, not CBS.

Any deal with Worldwide Pants reportedly would be a so-called "most favored nation" deal, that is, Dave's writers would get the same deal as the best deal negotiated elsewhere.

That's great for Dave, great for Dave's writers, great for Dave's non-writing staff (assuming that Dave might eventually stop paying them as he has since the beginning of the strike), but very bad for the WGA as a whole.

It's unlikely that's what the WGA intended when they announced they would negotiate with companies separately from the AMPTP.

If the WGA is OK with having some of its writers writing under a "to be determined" contract, which is effectively what it likely will get with Worldwide Pants, then why did they strike in the first place? Since negotiating a "to be determined" deal while everyone kept working is exactly what they were doing in October.

Piecemeal deals like this addressing the most pressing problem areas for the companies weaken the WGA's position tremendously, it's a wonder why they let them happen.

Let's not forget that Johnny Carson struck a deal like this to come back early during the strike in 1988. (UPDATE: Johnny came back without his writers, as Jay and Conan will, not with his writers as Dave is rumored to be trying to do.)

As Dr. Phil might say to the WGA, "So, how'd that work out for ya?".

UPDATE: News that Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno will be back without their writers on January 2. I wonder if they will be lambasted as Carson Daly was?

How many of your favorite show episodes are left before reruns? Our latest (updated today!) Show by Show Strike status is here.

 
  • Kelly

    Letterman writer Bill Scheft is the WGA shop steward for the Letterman show. He's been repeatedly quoted as saying that Letterman on the air would be the WGA's greatest ally. He'd be snarling mad at the cheap weaselly sniveling bastard-weasels of the AMPTP every night for an hour.

  • Rena Moretti

    I don't see how this would weaken the WGA's position. In essence, Letterman is saying: “whatever you are asking for is fine with me.”

    I guess it makes CBS' financial position less precarious, which may make it less desperate to agree to terms.

  • Rena Moretti

    I don't see how this would weaken the WGA's position. In essence, Letterman is saying: “whatever you are asking for is fine with me.”

    I guess it makes CBS' financial position less precarious, which may make it less desperate to agree to terms.

  • Kelly

    Letterman writer Bill Scheft is the WGA shop steward for the Letterman show. He’s been repeatedly quoted as saying that Letterman on the air would be the WGA’s greatest ally. He’d be snarling mad at the cheap weaselly sniveling bastard-weasels of the AMPTP every night for an hour.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    Kelly,
    Letterman on air talking about the writers would be a PR bonus for the WGA, but it would be a financial bonus for CBS. I just think in the grand scheme of this labor action that CBS [and the AMPTP] comes out ahead in that bargain.

    Rena,
    My understanding [and I admit to no inside information] isn't that Letterman's company is going to agree to whatever the WGA wants [if so, it *would* be a big positive to the WGA]. My understanding is that they will agree to a “whatever the best deal you get elsewhere we will match” type of deal. That's a very different proposition.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    Kelly,
    Letterman on air talking about the writers would be a PR bonus for the WGA, but it would be a financial bonus for CBS. I just think in the grand scheme of this labor action that CBS [and the AMPTP] comes out ahead in that bargain.

    Rena,
    My understanding [and I admit to no inside information] isn't that Letterman's company is going to agree to whatever the WGA wants [if so, it *would* be a big positive to the WGA]. My understanding is that they will agree to a “whatever the best deal you get elsewhere we will match” type of deal. That's a very different proposition.

  • Alex

    While you make some very valid points, I prefer Letterman's method of trying to work with the WGA rather than Leno and Conan going back sans writers as of January 2. NBC will make quite a pretty penny from these shows, while at least Letterman is trying to do the right thing — as he has since the beginning of the strike.

    On another topic, can you explain why Oprah uses non-union writers? I just don't see how that can be allowed — her Emmy category is the same as shows that require union writers. How does she get a pass?

  • Alex

    While you make some very valid points, I prefer Letterman's method of trying to work with the WGA rather than Leno and Conan going back sans writers as of January 2. NBC will make quite a pretty penny from these shows, while at least Letterman is trying to do the right thing — as he has since the beginning of the strike.

    On another topic, can you explain why Oprah uses non-union writers? I just don't see how that can be allowed — her Emmy category is the same as shows that require union writers. How does she get a pass?

  • Rena Moretti

    I don’t see how this would weaken the WGA’s position. In essence, Letterman is saying: “whatever you are asking for is fine with me.”

    I guess it makes CBS’ financial position less precarious, which may make it less desperate to agree to terms.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    Alex, I'm not sure how Oprah's been able to operate. Also, The View uses union writers yet continues to function.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    Alex, I'm not sure how Oprah's been able to operate. Also, The View uses union writers yet continues to function.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    Kelly,
    Letterman on air talking about the writers would be a PR bonus for the WGA, but it would be a financial bonus for CBS. I just think in the grand scheme of this labor action that CBS [and the AMPTP] comes out ahead in that bargain.

    Rena,
    My understanding [and I admit to no inside information] isn’t that Letterman’s company is going to agree to whatever the WGA wants [if so, it *would* be a big positive to the WGA]. My understanding is that they will agree to a “whatever the best deal you get elsewhere we will match” type of deal. That’s a very different proposition.

  • Rena Moretti

    Could they be union writers from a different union?

    Hollywood has no rhyme or reason as to which union has jurisdiction over what.

  • Rena Moretti

    Could they be union writers from a different union?

    Hollywood has no rhyme or reason as to which union has jurisdiction over what.

  • Alex

    While you make some very valid points, I prefer Letterman’s method of trying to work with the WGA rather than Leno and Conan going back sans writers as of January 2. NBC will make quite a pretty penny from these shows, while at least Letterman is trying to do the right thing — as he has since the beginning of the strike.

    On another topic, can you explain why Oprah uses non-union writers? I just don’t see how that can be allowed — her Emmy category is the same as shows that require union writers. How does she get a pass?

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    Alex, I’m not sure how Oprah’s been able to operate. Also, The View uses union writers yet continues to function.

  • Rena Moretti

    Could they be union writers from a different union?

    Hollywood has no rhyme or reason as to which union has jurisdiction over what.

  • David

    So exactly what are the specifics of the deal that was reached between the WGA and WWP?

  • David

    So exactly what are the specifics of the deal that was reached between the WGA and WWP?

  • David

    So exactly what are the specifics of the deal that was reached between the WGA and WWP?

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