Dear Gossips,

Oh no, the worst possible unintentional outcome occurred—the studios/streamers banded together to form a lobbying group. Far from AMPTP splitting up—damn, I was hoping for that, honestly—Netflix, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, and other studios with streaming interests have formed the Streaming Innovation Alliance (SIA), a trade group to “promote their interests to politicians and government entities”. So, a lobbying entity. They’re going to lobby states and the federal government directly now. GREAT.

 

One way of looking at this is as another tacit admission that they know they lost the strike with the WGA and are probably going to lose with SAG-AFTRA, too (since SAG leadership will use the WGA deal as a blueprint, and their concerns overlap on so many points). In that way, it’s always good to see egg on the face of the people who wanted to “starve” the writers out of their homes and kept saying writers were being “unreasonable” for wanting to make a living wage. 

The other way of looking at it, of course, is that if they can’t break unions and turn creative industry into a robot nightmare, and actually have to make careers feasible for real human beings in their industry, they’re just going to go straight to the top and buy politicians until they can change laws to favor corporations and management (more than they already do). Think of all the money they’ll spend via SIA that they could just use some percentage of to pay people decently! It really feels like the current executive class of Hollywood really would like to drive their entire industry off a cliff rather than make it an industry with robust, viable career paths for creatives.

 

Interestingly, though, a number of prominent companies did not join this new alliance: Amazon, Apple, Google (which owns Youtube), and Roku, which is a streaming company—it was actually spun off Netflix in the 2000s—but is utilizes an “over the top” business model closer to cable. These are all companies, with the exception of Roku, that do not view themselves as being primarily in the entertainment business. Right now, it seems the tech companies don’t want a piece of SIA. There’s got to be a fundamental conflict there, and I bet it’s going to have something to do with data management, user experience, and/or bandwidth usage. Let’s keep an eye on how the lobbying between SIA and Big Tech goes over the next few years.

SIA is headed by a former Republican representative, Fred Upton, and a Democratic official, Mignon Clyburn, who served on the FCC for nine years (she was originally appointed by President Obama). So, they want SIA to look like a bipartisan “trade group” meant to promote streaming interests regardless of administrative leadership in Washington. Okay. In the history of lobbying, it has rarely benefited the consumer, as is SIA’s stated intention, but sure, let’s pretend they’re SO worried about the consumer they have to lobby for corporate policy, instead of just like, focusing on creating a positive user experience.

 

They’re also trying to get ahead of the messaging, touting surveys that show 70% of registered voters view streaming “favorably” or “very favorably” (because registered voters in the US are so reliable and honest these days). And they’re positioning SIA as a champion of “diverse voices” in streaming, noting that streaming opened “doors for production jobs to people of color that have been shut for decades”, per Clyburn. True, except the other half of that statement is that the minute the economic bubble around streaming burst, it seemed that cancellation fever struck the inclusive shows hardest. Also, Clyburn heavily implies any regulation on streaming would harm this diverse storytelling paradise, which sounds an awful lot like a threat. Regulate us and watch us kill everything you love. But they’re already doing that, so…

 

We’ll have to see what the real impact of SIA is, and that will take a few years and election cycles to discern, but the answer to labor issues, degrading user experience, and an increasingly unhappy consumer base is never “less regulation”. It’s always more regulation, to force companies to act with human interest foremost, and not Wall Street’s ghoulish specter of endless growth at all costs. It sure feels like we could circumvent a lot of problems with streaming and internet-based entertainment just by bringing back net neutrality.

Here is Billy Crudup picketing in New York yesterday.

Live long and gossip,

Sarah