'Office' politics: WGA uses YouTube to state its case

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The WGA might be concerned about how network and studio content on the Internet has cut into its revenue, but in setting up its own YouTube page and blog, the guild has decided to harness the power of the medium to get its message out.

In a YouTube video posted Tuesday by the WGA, hyphenates on NBC's "The Office" took a break from picketing to plead their case on Google's video-sharing site.

"You're watching this on the Internet, a thing that pays us zero dollars," said writer-actor-producer Mike Schur, noting the irony.

Although the video is filled with the humorous yet caustic banter you'd expect from a group of disgruntled comedy writers, they still acknowledge that the strike has serious consequences.

Said showrunner Greg Daniels, picket sign in hand, in a nod to the IATSE members affected by the strike, "The crew has come up to us and said they completely support us, knowing that they're going to get laid off."

Production on "Office" shut down this week after star Steve Carell, a WGA member, refused to cross the picket lines.

The "Office" strikers, though, showed no signs of relenting, noting that the Internet is especially integral to the success of their show and that they need just compensation because of it.

"Every time I meet someone who's a new viewer of 'The Office,' " actor-writer-producer B.J. Novak said, "overwhelmingly, they're watching it on the Internet; they're watching it on DVD."

Last year, the writing staff and many of the show's actors collaborated on "The Office Webisodes," a 10-part original online series that appeared on NBC.com and netted the show a daytime Emmy. Schur noted that though the network Web site is ad-supported and still hosts the video, the writers and actors haven't seen any revenue from the project.

"Office" also has been available for paid download on Apple's iTunes platform and is available for free download on NBC.com. Schur joked that under the current contract, NBC pays the team "11 cents for every trillion downloads."

"Office" and other NBC content is available on Web video site Hulu as well, and in support of this joint venture with News Corp., the Peacock last month pulled its promotional content off YouTube.

This action, though, obviously hasn't stopped guild members employed by the network from appearing on the site.
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