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Mini-Webisodes of ‘Lost’ to Compensate Writers; a Model for a Future Agreement?

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Over the coming three months, ABC.com will be streaming mini-webisodes of the hit show Lost that add more details to the plot and help fill in backstory. As the NYT reports, these episodes, dubbed “Lost: Missing Pieces”, were developed under a special agreement between the studio and the WGA that addresses many of the complaints the writers have over web-based compensation. Under the agreement, writers were paid $800 for each piece they worked on, plus residuals of 1.2-2 percent of licensing fees. The deal allows studios to let the webisodes play for 13 weeks on Verizon’s (NYSE: VZ) network and for extended play over the internet, which is how residuals will be generated.

While there’s some hope that the agreement will prove a template for a larger agreement, skeptics note that this was one-off deal made by one studio player, with a specific clause noting that the contract would not set a precedent. That’s probably the key takeaway here: the studios will pay writers for digital content, but they’d rather do it via flexible, one-off agreements, as opposed to a blanket contract. Of course, this would negate the whole concept of a writer’s union, so you can see the hold up.