As part of its push into original video content, Apple signed a Writers Guild of America master contract promising writers greater benefits.
The deal means that scribes employed by Apple to work on its growing list of projects will receive script fees, weekly payments and residuals on shows that air for free. This is a better deal for writers than the current baseline agreement on offer.
“These deal terms are significant,” WGA West President David A. Goodman and executive director David Young wrote in a letter to union members. “First, the current MBA does not contain minimums or residuals for projects on free-to-consumer services … Terms have to be negotiated on a writer by writer basis. Except, now, at Apple.”
Apple has yet to reveal exactly how its original video content will be broadcast. So far, most Writers Guild of America-covered internet programming has been part of paid services, such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. However, Facebook is focused on providing free content to consumers. While Apple’s distribution plans remain secret, this suggests that free content could be on the radar.
The WGA previously went on strike for 100 days in late 2007 and early 2008 over issues resulting from work distributed online. Goodman and Young think that having Apple on board could prove important for negotiating new deals with other streaming content providers. The current WGA contract for writers is due to expire on May 1, 2020.
“Our Apple deal moves us in that direction while the 2020 negotiations are still two years away,” Goodman and Young wrote.
Apple’s original content ambitions
Apple has continued to aggressively push its original content ambitions. By our count, the company now has 16 TV series in development. Names attached include Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon, Kristen Wiig, Kevin Durant, Ron Howard, Ronald D. Moore and M. Night Shamalayan.
This week, Apple won the rights to turn Gregory David Robert’s best-selling novel Shantaram into an original drama series. Cupertino also inked a deal for J.J. Abrams to executive produce a musical dramedy.