We've Got Hollywood Covered

SAG Might Kill Hollywood's Evolution

President Obama dropped by NBC Thursday for what will hopefully be a future fireside chat series, although better off without Jay Leno. And who was out in full force to greet our newly elected leader but a bunch of grumpy SAG members.

Oh yes, and ousted national exec Doug Allen. The actors' union continues to gripe about Hollywood's "last, best and final offer" regarding contract negotiations.

While SAG has all but agreed on the new-media terms of the producers' offer, holding out any further runs the risk of stunting Hollywood's evolution. Studios will soon have no option but to make a push for more online content, otherwise they might lose the digital demographic.

NBC Universal and News Corp's foray into viral video, Hulu, celebrated a big win last week, ranking as the number-two video website, coming in only behind YouTube. The site now has 9.5 million unique viewers, according to Nielsen. And all those clicks equal potential dollars for producers. They can take in upwards of $40 for every thousand virtual eyes.

Across the pond, the BBC just boosted web spending by $44.3 million over the next three years. Much of the Beeb's online content is expected to focus on news and educational programming. PBS should begin considering a similar effort.

The key to Hollywood's future survival online can only be found in experimentation. Let's face it, Internet users are a fickle bunch. With this week's Facebook makeover, web chatter shows the beginnings of an exodus from the social networking stalwart to the latest rival, Twitter.

There's no telling what will hit or miss when it comes to the Internet, but if studios don't have the ability to try everything, many more actors might soon find themselves out of work. A few creative types have recently made valiant efforts in this direction.

NBC's "Heroes" has a few actors and crewmembers on Twitter interacting with fans. And Showtime's "The L Word" is experimenting with extending its finale online by posting videos on the show's website, seemingly with the intention to help explain the cliffhanger-esque series ender.

Comedy Central took advantage of exclusive online video following Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" interview with CNBC's Jim Cramer. Those only watching on cable saw a cut down segment, but website visitors were able to see the unedited stream. As of March 20, the video received nearly 1.3 million hits, having only been posted seven days.

SAG, and every creative union, deserves a fair piece of the pie, but Alan Rosenberg's foot dragging efforts have led actors to this unnecessary standoff. If SAG doesn't end things quickly, the digital wave might pass Hollywood by.


James Sims got his start in news while serving as a radio and television reporter in the U.S. Air Force. After a few years in South Korea he returned to Los Angeles where he worked at "Entertainment Tonight" and then the Hollywood Reporter. Now in New York covering Broadway, he continues to observe the entertainment industry with a critical yet watchful eye.