TV shows and residuals vanish as streamers cut costs

Actor Diana Maria Riva is well aware that one of her shows will be cancelled. For performers, it’s a painful and unfortunate part of show business.

In December, Riva was upset to learn that the recently canceled family comedy show The Gordita Chronicles was being pulled from HBO Max’s massive streaming library. Among others: ‘Westworld’, ‘Time Her Traveler’s Wife’, ‘Minx’, ‘Mrs. Fletcher’, numerous cartoons and reality her series.

For Riva, the development was catastrophic. Over 10 episodes, the critically acclaimed series follows his plus-sized 12-year-old Cucu with a Dominican family as he adjusts to life in 1980s Miami.

“It was like someone broke up with you and came back weeks later to remind you that we broke up,” says Riva, who played Cucu’s mother. , “Now we’re going to wipe out any evidence that you were here,” is an added punch.

As streamers face mounting pressure to save money, some are following HBO’s lead. Purging the original show from the library allows the streamer to get a tax reduction, saving a small amount on the rest of the payment. But they are being criticized for lacking creative talent from already marginalized voices and already meager salaries. Those issues have heightened tensions between executives and writers amid union contract negotiations that began late last month and could lead to a significant work stoppage this spring.

Streaming companies offer this defense: They never promised their shows would last forever. I’m trying to get

streamers fasten their belts

With the tech and media industries sluggish, streamers are under pressure to cut spending and increase profits, rather than “going for growth at all costs,” says media analyst Dan Raeburn.

“These companies have had to change the way they spend on content because Wall Street says they have to make money faster,” says Rayburn. He said in November that Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ had lost nearly $1.5 billion to his direct-to-consumer sales division in his first quarter. ‘s stock price has plummeted.

HBO’s 2022 purge, where parent company Warner Bros. merged with Discovery, allowing for many tax deduction possibilities, was the most prominent example. But its rivals soon followed suit. In January, Starz removed several shows, including the costume drama “Dangerous Liaisons,” which disappeared from its streaming app days after the finale aired. Told.

A few weeks later, Showtime underwent its own culling. Among other things, it eliminated the Jeff Daniels-led drama American Last. Paramount+, which integrated Showtime into its service, has done the same with some of its services, such as the resurrection of Jordan Peele’s “The Twilight Zone.”

Some of those shows have found new homes. The ramifications of their disappearance are far-reaching for those that aren’t, including the “Gordita Chronicles”. Potential viewers may never have a chance to discover it. Actors and writers don’t know if their work will be seen again. Also, the original streamer no longer has to pay the remaining balance.

It’s unclear how much these erasures will save streamers. However, Rayburn said the two companies made the clear conclusion that the deleted shows were not attracting enough new customers or contributing significantly to retention efforts. Instead, the streamer, who recently started hosting several of her HBO shows, including “Westworld,” has pitched the show to rivals such as Tubi, a free, ad-supported streaming TV channel. increase.

Streamers aren’t obligated to host shows over the years, Rayburn said. In addition, customers have grown accustomed to jumping between apps looking for titles to navigate between them.

Casey Bloys, chairman and CEO of HBO and HBO Max, said in a recent episode of “The Watch” podcast that streamers are taking a closer look at their libraries to see how best to make money. I was.

“The idea that everything a company produces for $15 a month and forever lives in one place is a relatively new concept,” Bloys said. “Can he $15 a month cover everything for the rest of the term? Good idea, but not viable.”

residual reduction

The changing landscape has surprised creatives who have already seen residue dwindle over the years.

Residue was once a cornerstone of the lives of actors and writers, and as series were syndicated and emerged as reruns, the big checks were always rolling in. said to have plummeted. Streamers still pay the balance as part of union-negotiated contracts, but these back-end payments fall short of what the cast and crew receive from television channels.

According to a deal with the Writers Guild of the West and the Motion Picture and Television Producers Alliance, one rerun of ABC’s hour-long primetime program currently brings in $24,558 to its writers. However, if the show was on her Netflix, the writer would earn up to her US$20,018 in domestic residual income for the episode. If the show was delivered by a smaller streamer like her HBO Max, the annual payout would be up to him $13,346. Each time a show is added to the streamer, the residual will decrease. Of course, that’s assuming the show remains part of the library.

The reduction in residual money could come to a head as the WGA’s contracts expire in May and shortly thereafter the directors’ and actors’ guild contracts expire on June 30, industry insiders say. is. In an industry that is far more likely to order 10-episode seasons than the 22-episode season that was the norm in an era when broadcasters dominated the media, writers are more likely to push for better overtime rates. We want higher minimum wage rates and better financial security. The final writers’ strike, his 100-day work stoppage that ended in 2008, cost the California economy an estimated US$2 billion.

“For those of you wondering why a WGA strike is imminent, my first balance for a broadcast show I wrote was $12,000. I just got my first balance for a streaming show. …$4,” tweeted screenwriter Keira Jones.

Although the balance has been reduced, Riva said it plays a key role in ensuring that actors earn enough income in a given year (currently US$26,470) to maintain insurance eligibility through the Actors Guild SAG-AFTRA. I’m here.

“If you haven’t gotten much work recently, but at least have enough leftovers to cross that minimum threshold, that means your family can be insured,” says Riva.

The alienated voice is shelved

In a February news release, the Writers Guild of the West condemned HBO’s removal of the show, saying it “shows how integration increases Gatekeeper power at the expense of marginalized voices.” rice field.

The Guild cited HBO’s decision to remove an animated series in which two lead characters, “The Gordita Chronicles” and “Tuca & Bertie,” were voiced by women of color. Also highlighted was the studio’s highly unusual move to the film Batgirl, a near-finished film starring Afro-Latina actor Leslie Grace. In January, Warner Bros. Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels said the company was “over” pursuing these content-related write-offs.

“You can’t just get rid of a show, especially one that portrays immigrant and Latinx families in a positive light,” said Gordita Chronicles showrunner Brigitte Muñoz Liebowitz. It’s humanized through comedy, and the lack of the show as part of the media lexicon marks a regression for me.”

HBO Max said in a statement that canceling The Gordita Chronicles was a “very difficult decision” to make as part of its transition away from family entertainment. The streamer also confirmed that it has returned the rights to the show to Sony.

While other affected shows have found new homes through licensing deals, “The Gordita Chronicles” remains dangling and nearly impossible to find. For a while, some episodes were still streamed on American Airlines flights, but they too have recently disappeared from the in-flight viewing options.

Both Munoz-Liebowitz and Juan Javier Cardenas, who played Cucu’s father on the show, hope Sony finds new homes. He said he was relieved to know that. Not so with The Gordita Chronicles. At least, not now.

“To finally know it,” says Cardenas.

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