Showrunners Want Branding Bucks


A group of showrunners joined executives from the Writers Guild of America Wednesday to call for consultation and compensation regarding branded integration in both scripted and unscripted television shows.

Speaking at a press conference in New York City, executive producers including Marc Cherry (Desperate Housewives) and John Wells (ER) said that writers want to become involved at the beginning of any negotiations that would eventually involve integrating brands into their shows.

“We are pragmatic, we know it is going to happen,” Wells said of the increasing amount of advertisers buying into the content of television shows.  “But we need to start having these negotiations immediately.”

The writers said they were unhappy with situations when a network presents them with a product that must be written prominently into the creative of a show. But they did admit demanding the chance to outright veto a branded integration deal is unrealistic.

The panelists said they want to begin talks now with their employers, instead of waiting until the next negotiation for the WGA’s overall deal, which expires in 2007.

“We can’t wait until 2007 to be consulted on a practice that is so commonplace today,” said Neil Baer, executive producer of Law & Order: SVU.

WGA, west President Patric Verrone said that no talks have taken place as of now.

“We don’t want them to push it off until 2007, and then try and maintain that it is not even one of the overall bargaining points,” he said.

At an earlier press conference Wednesday to discuss the fall schedule, CBS Corp. boss Leslie Moonves addressed the issue, saying, “There’s no question it is important that these (product integration) discussions be appropriately held with our creative people, which we are doing. But everyone has to be aware the world is changing. We’re in a new world. Everybody can benefit from it. That is our intent.”

Moonves also expressed hope that an industry strike can be averted next year when the WGA's contract expires in the fall, followed later by the actors' and directors' guilds. He noted that there are people in the industry who are working to make that happen.