It’s at the golden age for TV. It’s also a pretty sweet time for TV writers, especially if they create their own TV series.
What Terms Can TV Writers Negotiate?
OVERALL TV NETWORK DEAL
This is the big daddy of TV writing deals. This is where the big bucks lie and is generally only available to established TV show runners; i.e the 1%
Overall deals are made when TV writers/ show runners must exclusively develop all their material under the auspices of the network they have signed with. That means that the studio owns the intellectual properties. If none of the TV shows the writer develops with the studio get produced, the writer doesn’t automatically keep the material they’ve been working on. Sorry folks. That’s why you get paid the big bucks.
On the bright side, the TV writer collects a handsome upfront fee, annual fees, and additional writing and production fees for anything the studio picks up during the term of the deal. Furthermore, the network or studio picks up the tab for packaging, selling, distributing and syndicating the TV show.
FIRST LOOK TV NETWORK DEAL
Similar to first look studio deals for movies, the network has first right of refusal. Although the TV writer generally retains copyright ownership of their material.
First look deals are more frequently negotiated with production companies who deliver an entire slate of TV material to the network they’ve signed with.
These can be lucrative, especially if the network decides to develop and produce the TV shows. If the network passes on the material, the production company is free to shop the material elsewhere.
No, these aren’t for Daredevil TV writers who can’t see.
Blind TV deals are typically made between TV networks and individual writers, especially after they’ve had a breakout hit. As its name suggests, a blind deal means that specific material isn’t slated for development between the two parties.
However, various concepts are generally discussed before signing to gain a brief overview of the type of material likely to be developed. The ideas could come from either the TV network or the writer. A studio generally retains the rights to all developed material regardless if it has been produced or not.
IF/ COME DEAL
These deals are akin to “riding in an agent or manager’s hip pocket” deals, where TV writers develop material with managers they haven’t formally signed with.
Basically, no body get paid until the project is sold. If not, the rights revert back to the writer, if they originated the project. Much like an option agreement with a producer.
If the TV network originated the idea, it retains the rights to the material. This are the least lucrative TV deals and are really used for emerging writers to develop material.
TV EPISODE WRITING FEE
These are governed by WGA rules and are fairly straightforward. A TV writer who has created a TV series can receive additional compensation if they write a TV episode. A certain number of guaranteed episodes to be written can be negotiated in any of the above overall deals.
The pilot writing fee is usually higher than a standard episode writing fee since most of the heaving lifting of the series has been done.
Then there are residuals to make these deals even sweeter, especially if you are the series creator. They also apply derivative works such as spinoff shows.
As a TV writer progresses up the ranks of TV stardom, they can negotiate an Executive Producer fee. Variants of these roles include Consulting Producer or Supervising Producer, which are usually negotiated for lower rates than the Executive Producer. These fees are a way for networks to keep high level writers and TV series creators locked into a TV show for a specified time.
These fees are outside the jurisdiction of the WGA and are negotiated directly with the TV network or producing entity.
A SET UP bonus is similar to a SIGN ON or PRODUCTION BONUS for feature film writers. Basically, when a TV network or production company exercises their option to advance a TV series into development and/or production, the TV writer gets handsomely compensated.
TV writers can also negotiate bonus if their TV pilot goes to season, or to another season. Hefty fees can be negotiated especially if a TV writer receives guild minima for their original source work.
TV writers can also negotiate additional fees if they achieve certain milestones, such as writing a pre-determined number of episodes or when profit thresholds are met. These are sometimes called monkey points and are classed as GROSS or NET profit participation points. The former are the most lucrative, since TV network accountants are sometimes more creative than their writers.
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