Confessions of a Business Affairs Exec
A top suit on how we got here, mistakes made and how we can help fix them
Today’s column is from a well-known senior business affairs exec, who originally sought to respond to an Ankler column from Entertainment Strategy Guy, then expanded their piece to include BA’s role in collective bargaining. This person is anonymous as they are not authorized to speak by their employer.
Like many of you, I have obsessively consumed news and analysis about this year’s (terribly-named) “Hot Labor Summer.” And as a longtime senior business affairs executive in Hollywood, my attention was especially piqued by a recent newsletter from The Ankler’s anonymous Entertainment Strategy Guy, titled “Business Affairs: Good Cop/Bad Cop of the Streaming Wars.” His thesis was pretty well captured in the lede: “The back engine that led us to a standoff also can get us out of it.” The back engine being… me. Us. The BA people.
I’m often a fan of ESG’s work, but my reaction to this particular piece can be summed up in two wistful words: I wish. That’s because, while ESG clearly has a solid general idea of what business affairs is and does, his analysis fundamentally (though flatteringly) misunderstands BA’s role in the industry generally, and its role in the collective bargaining process specifically. He gives us both more and less credit than we deserve.
To my surprise, I found myself thinking about this article for days, and eventually, I realized why: because in this chaotic moment of upheaval and frustration in Hollywood, people are desperate to understand how we got into this mess and how we get out of it. They want to know who the villains are, and who might turn out to be heroes. And I believe ESG was right about at least one thing: understanding the role of business affairs in our ongoing industry-wide soap opera can teach us some valuable lessons about how we got here, and where we go from here.
In my piece, I want to offer the view from within the back engine about:
What power BA does (and doesn’t) have to make consequential decisions.
How BA created the mini-room — but not its unintended consequences.
How the industry solved the last structural crisis facing TV writers: pay dilution.
How BA works with showrunners to stretch a finite budget.
The role of BA in collective bargaining.
How span protection backfired.
What I think it will take to find a deal to get Hollywood back to work.