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Hollywood writers fired their agents. Now agencies are sidelining writers in new deals

Wendy Lee, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

"Writers continue to be the very heart of the television business and our value is because we write and run the shows, not because we're part of a packaging agreement," Goodman said in a statement. "For that reason, our focus is on banning the packaging fees for representing writers, so that writer pay and power will be a function of our true market value, not deals that the agencies and studios make behind our backs."

Helping to fuel the continued flurry of deal-making is the insatiable appetite of streamers hungry for new shows. Many of those buyers are interested in building shows from podcasts or books that already have massive audiences, said Beverly Hills-based entertainment attorney Elsa Ramo, a managing partner of Ramo Law PC.

"There's a perception that there's a greater risk with something that no one's ever made before," Ramo said.

In some cases, buyers are willing to purchase shows without a writer attached because they may want to take a more active role in choosing who the writer is, Ramo added.

Wondery CEO Hernan Lopez said the "Joe Exotic" package was attractive enough to potential buyers without a writer attached.

"We structure the stories ourselves in the podcast that makes it more likely they will resonate with television viewers," said Lopez.

 

Wondery has been successful at adapting podcasts into TV shows, including the true-crime podcast "Dirty John," which it made in partnership with the Los Angeles Times and was turned into a TV series that aired on Bravo starring Connie Britton.

The increased demand for intellectual property has created new opportunities for talent agencies. WME sold a series in June based on the Asa Schwarz book "The Seven Keys" that will be produced by Yellow Bird and distributed by Netflix without a writer tied to the project, according to a person familiar with the deal who declined to be named.

In some cases, unionized writers join the project after the agencies sell the IP to studios. They enter the project through their attorney or through open writing assignments, where writers can apply individually to write episodic scripts for shows, according to people familiar with the matter.

Some guild members worry about losing their clout.

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