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WMA-YouTube: Agents of Change?

Espresso3  In case you missed it, The New York Times reported Thursday that the William Morris Agency and YouTube are in talks to place their clients in new-media work. YouTube has been trying to shift away from golf-balls-in-a-blender stuff to professionally produced content, and this would be a major step forward.

While we're always eager to wonder about the future, this development could raise an issue from the past.

An interesting wrinkle to the deal is William Morris getting an ownership stake in the content. Why is this important? SAG and the major talent-agency groups (ATA and NATR) have not had a franchise agreement since 2002, and it fell apart over the issue of allowing agents to also be producers. By California law, agents are not allowed to produce, because it is a conflict of interest. Even though many agents wield enormous power, they are, at least technically, the employees of the actors. They cannot also be their employers.

In the talent agents' defense, managers are allowed to be producers, and agencies have claimed they miss out on a lot of that money. One wonders if the WMA-YouTube deal would be the thin end of the wedge for agents--once they get an ownership stake in their clients' work on the Web, would that soften up the ground for them getting similar stakes in traditional content? Stay tuned...

ABC ADS IT UP: THR reports that ABC.com wants to double the number of ads it runs in streamed TV shows from four to eight.

NEW FUND-RAISING MODEL FOR THEATRE?: The Galapagos Arts Space in Brooklyn wants to develop a new way to help finance theatre. Citing the closing of some 50 Off-Off-Broadway theatres in the past five years and the brutal cost of doing business and living in New York, Galapagos is proposing a micro-loan system. Prospective producers would pay $100 into the fund while Galapagos looks for works to invest in.

If you are an artist and would like to participate, email Robert Elmes at [email protected]. If you are a producer or interested in becoming one, the address is [email protected].

--Andrew Salomon

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