The J. Michael Straczynski Message Archive


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by J. Michael Straczynski (JMS).

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    From: (Jms at B5)
    Date: 4/20/1995 10:24:00 PM  

Message 1 in thread 

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I do not hold the copyright for B5. The copyright for ALL shows is
in the hands of the studios. Roddenberry, for instance, did not own (and
his estate does not own) Star Trek. Paramount does. Look at any of the
ST merchandise: (c) (year) Paramount Television. Warner Bros./PTEN holds
the copyright for B5.

Thus, if they license it to a comics company, it's between the company
and the "creator" for legal purposes...Warner Bros. Ditto for the novels.
Why do I thus get involved anyway? Because they're based on my show, and
I have a personal interest in making sure they're done right.

And as stated, the goal is to keep income below debits *on paper*,
not in reality.

Because all studios know that if they can show no net income, they
never have to pay profit participation.

    From: (Jms at B5)
    Date: 4/20/1995 10:25:00 PM  

Message 2 in thread 

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You have to understand in all this that the studios agenda is always
to guarantee maximum return for the studio and its stockholders, and the
minimum or nothing for those who create the product. This is the modus
operandi for *all* studios.

Example: I worked on MURDER, SHE WROTE as a writer/producer for two
years. It's a highly-rated top ten network series. The shows air two or
three times on network, then are taken off. Such programs usually go into
syndication, where the studio receives a per-episode fee from the
syndicator. In syndication, you get a straight residual, which for a
third/fourth run (now the first syndicated run) would be a couple/three
grand. Not bad.

But more and more, shows like M,SW are sold to *cable* like USA
Network, where the formula is different. There you, the writer, get a
percentage of the gross price paid per episode by the cable network.
Okay, so far so good, right? Except one day, some smart executive at
Universal realized that the studio is also part owner of USA Network, and
that by selling the episodes at market price, they were charging
themselves an arm and a leg. So why not charge the *bare minimum* to
themselves, and sell the show cheap to their own branch? So a show that
would normally be sold to another cable network for, say, a couple
hundred grand, one time, they turn around and sell instead to a cable
network they own, where it can run indefinitely, and sell it for a couple
hundred dollars...knowing full well that all the talent involved get a
percentage of the purchase fee.

Result: the third/fourth run of one of my M,SW episodes (the first
on USA) which, anywhere else, would bring in 2 or 3 grand brings in a
grand total of....$28.

You know that old joke about the (ethnic group) actress who was so
dumb she slept with the writer? There's a reason...because she'd heard
that in LA, *everyone* screws the writer.

    From: (Jms at B5)
    Date: 4/26/1995 12:12:00 PM  

Message 3 in thread 

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Unfortunately, the whole selling-to-yourself strategy is totally
legal, since each group makes up their own mind what to charge, and there
really IS no going rate.


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