Business Affairs: Good Cop/Bad Cop of the Streaming Wars
The back engine that led us to a standoff also can get us out of it
The Los Angeles Times has a great series on how people can break into Hollywood. It’s a smart collection of articles since so many people do want to come to Hollywood and become rich and famous. And a lot of other advice online can be… unreliable.
You know what article The Los Angeles Times has never written? “How to become a Hollywood lawyer”. Trust me, Hollywood has way more lawyers than they do “animal handlers”.
In particular, no one ever talks about “business affairs”, the lawyers (largely) that handle talent negotiations for Hollywood studios and streamers. And why not? Because, uh, it’s not cool to be a lawyer — especially a “business affairs” lawyer. That’s why lawyer jokes persist time and again.
But are they important? You betcha. This town couldn’t run without them, for good or ill. As the WGA strike drags on into its fifth week, it strikes me that lawyers helped create and craft the deal terms that helped send the WGA on strike. And not just any lawyers, but the business affairs lawyers of the world. Specifically, the lawyers who negotiate deals on behalf of the studios and streamers with talent (writers, actors, producers and directors).
And that crucial role was subtly very important to how the Streaming Wars played out. Marshall McLuhan said, the medium is the message; I’d add, “the business affairs teams help define the medium”. Think about the rise of un-orders. Straight-to-streaming films. The death of profit sharing.
Those things all stem from business affairs.
In this issue I will explain:
Why biz affairs are some of the most influential people in Hollywood
How they designed the deal points that have become the biggest kerfuffles in entertainment
Why one studio/streamer needs to break from the pack — and whom it should be
And my suggestions for how business affairs can get us out of this mess