Writers Guild: Fewer Writers Made Money in 2010

Earnings for guild members decreased but residuals reached an all-time high

Television writers saw their earnings increase in 2010, but the total number of writers reporting income fell — and movie writers' income fell by nearly 10 percent — according to a report the Writers Guild of America West released on Friday.

According to the WGAW annual report, the total earnings for WGAW writers fell 2.9 percent from 2009 to 2010 — from $955.8 million to $928 million.

"The number of writers reporting income from covered services declined 4.5 percent to 4,244," according to the report. "On the other hand, for the first time ever, aggregate residuals receipts topped $300 million."

On the television side, earnings grew from $517.3 million in 2009 to $532.1 million in 2010.

Total television employment fell 1.1 percent, though, to 3,142, for the year. That's down from 3,176 in 2009 but slightly up from 3,100 in 2008.

It's a 19.5 percent drop from the all-time high of 3,903 in 2000.

The film side was less positive.

"The fluctuating nature of employment in feature film writing continued in 2010, with 1,615 writers reporting earnings compared to 1,818 in 2009," the report says. "Earnings decreased 9.9 percent over 2009."

In 2009, feature film writers earned a total of $435.8 million. In 2010 they earned 392.7 million.

Residuals collected increased 10 percent to $315.81 million.

"Residuals increased in both television and screen, with both areas reaching record high collection totals," the report says. "Television was the stronger area, increasing 12.8 percent to $160.43 million. The continuing highlight was reuse of programs made for basic cable, which increased 32.5 percent to $20.94 million."

Feature film residuals grew 6.1 percent to $141.78 million.

"DVD and Blu-ray revenue dropped … 3.2 percent to $40.57 million," the report says. "But this was more than offset by an increase in pay television residuals worldwide, which grew 17.2 percent to $54.29 million. New media grew to $1.22 million."