The AMPTP vs. The World

Curator's Note

Seven weeks into this strike, you almost feel sorry for the AMPTP. This video, from SNL’s Fred Armisen, illustrates precisely why they’ve irrevocably lost the PR war on the internet. The tone of their rhetoric has thus far run the spectrum from mock concern to mock outrage (taking in mock conciliation and mock impatience along the way), and videos like this (and trulydangerous’ “The AMPTP Responds” series) easily reveal the vested truth behind all the smarm. It’s hard to believe the studios and networks really believe what they’re telling the writers and public, when their flopsweat is all over each missive and new reality show press release, and when the counter-evidence to their claims comes straight out of their own investor relations departments. And it gets worse. They’ve managed to solidify above-the-line guild solidarity with the writers (DGA and SAG contracts are also up for negotiation in 2008) in a variety of ways (e.g., enacting “force majeure” clauses in producer and actor contracts). In an attempted strategy of divide-and-conquer, they’re forcing below-the-line workers (crew and support staff) to pay the price through mass layoffs. Most recently, in another moment of mock conciliation (and with a hint of a potential new flavor, mock resolve), they’ve released a full-page ad in Variety that unfortunately primarily functions to remind Hollywood that only eight guys (the CEOs of the AMPTP) run the show. As Nikki Finke shrewdly points out, this is a far cry from the situation in 1988, when the Aaron Spellings and Marcy Carseys of the industry still carried some clout, and the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules (aka fin-syn) kept the studios and networks largely apart. Still, the history of labor struggle reveals time and again that the owners don’t have win the hearts and minds; they just have to outlast the workers’ resolve. That was indeed the case in the 1988 strike, which did not end well for the WGA. The AMPTP may be knowingly peddling bullshit, but as long as they can sustain America’s interest in reality shows, placate worried shareholders, ignore the strike through their own news divisions, and hold off Silicon Valley’s Great Entertainment Takeover, they really don’t have to be loved again. Only feared.


Great clip, Derek! I'm particularly fond of the use of muzak. It's as if the AMPTP didn't want to pay a musician for their work either. Besides, I'd think CEOs would love elevator music--it's the sound of industry creating "entertainment."

I think one of the most fascinating things about the press surrounding the strike is how it is forcing everyone to master quick lessons in media economics an experience formerly reserved form film/tv majors (and frankly, not most of them prefer aesthetics and auteurism to coursework on media industries. (see the quick survey Miranda Banks and I did about how much film students know about the strike This video does a great job of breaking down some of the details of the AMPTP's bad faith negotiating, while perfectly parodying the style of industrial videos.

A really thoughtful post, Derek. The historical perspective is excellent...and very productive in a forum like this. I was also happy to see you bring up Nikki Finke - her is my first place for updates! thanks for expanding the conversation and sorting through some of the PR wars (the only place where the AMPTP seems to be consistently on the losing end).

I love how the clip shows the AMPTP's "interesting" play with figures. I'm wondering, though, as the trenches get dug even deeper between WGA and AMPTP, where are the advertisers in all this? I'd love to hear from them, especially since it's them who are now (or will soon be) losing their paid-for audiences, getting endless "make-goods." Do any of y'all have links to share that say what the advertisers are saying (or have they all been appropriately hushed up?)?

I've been wondering that as well, Jonathan. My guess is that they're likely to stand behind the AMPTP, in public at least, because they're "producers" as well, with their own writers and other creatives to deal with (who don't get any residuals for anything, AFAIK). Still, as up in the air as all the economics are, I would imagine that their ultimate position is, if not fluid, at least a bit wobbly, the longer this goes on.

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