No more ‘peak TV’? Why TV’s golden age isn’t one for its writers.

It’s a paradox: Peak TV has led to more creative freedom, but lower paychecks, writers say. They are mulling the first strike in a decade.

Published April 13, 2017

The last time Speed Weed found himself jobless, it was 2011, his wife had just given birth to triplets, and he couldn’t find work for almost a year.

But Mr. Weed wasn’t worried. A television writer and producer, he relied on residuals – payments made to creators and performers for subsequent screenings of their work – from two years of writing and producing for the police procedural “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.”

The show reran on NBC. So the checks kept coming – long enough for him to pick up work again, first for a USA Network miniseries in 2012 and then for the CW’s superhero series “Arrow” in 2015.

“If that happened today, I wouldn’t make it,” says Weed, now the show’s co-executive producer.

That’s because times have changed in television, he says. Over the past five years, a broader range of content platforms has given viewers free reign over what to watch and when to watch it. Studios are producing more and better programming than ever: The number of scripted shows doubled – from about 200 to more than 400 – between 2009 and 2015. Netflix alone is reportedly producing 1,000 hours of original programs in 2017. Pundits call the era “peak TV.”

“It’s a great time to be in television,” says Ken Kristensen, who is currently working on a Marvel show for Netflix. “We just have to make sure that it’s a sustainable environment for writers.”

Read the rest at