Suits Writers Express Disappointment Over Low Residuals Despite Show's Streaming Success
Despite the increased popularity of the legal drama Suits on streaming platforms, writers for the show are expressing their dissatisfaction with the meager residuals they have received. More than 100 days into the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike, these writers are highlighting the discrepancy between the show's massive streaming numbers and the inadequate compensation they have received. This issue is a significant part of the overall battle being fought by the Writers Guild of America.
In a recent opinion piece published in the LA Times, Ethan Drogan, a writer and producer for the TV show Suits, shared that he earned only $259.71 in streaming residuals for the episode called "Identity Crisis" during the last quarter.
In a recent statement, he mentioned that NBCUniversal paid a total of less than $3,000 to the six original Suits writers for streaming the first season's 11 episodes on two different platforms. This seems quite low considering the show's skyrocketing viewership numbers after it was moved from Prime Video to Netflix in late June. Suits has always had a dedicated fanbase and has been a popular hit.
The television series Suits has become a regular presence on Netflix's weekly Top 10 chart after leaving Prime. In the span of July 3 to July 9, it accumulated a staggering 3.7 billion minutes of viewing time on both Peacock and Netflix combined, as reported by Nielsen. This impressive number allowed the show to establish a new record as the most-watched acquired title in a single week in the streaming industry. Notably, Suits had already set this record the week before.
The creators and writers of the TV show Suits, Nora and Lilla Zuckerman, recently shared in an interview with Decider that they have not received consistent payments that reflect the show's success. Lilla mentioned that she only received $12,568.57 in residuals for the season 5 episode "Blowback" in 2016. She speculated that this low payment may be due to international sales and re-airing on USA. In contrast, despite Suits being viewed for countless hours on Netflix in 2023, Lilla received a mere $414.26 for the same episode.
Lilla, who holds a leadership position in the WGA, strongly believes that raising the rates for residuals and ensuring greater financial stability in that aspect of the payment system is just a return to the previous norm.
According to the actress, in the past, people used to rely on receiving fair compensation for their work on shows that were aired on networks or basic cable. However, this is no longer the case as companies continue to make money from these shows without providing adequate compensation to the actors. The actress believes it is important to return to the previous system where fair compensation was the norm.
The Guild began discussing the issue of residuals in the 1950s. However, during the well-known 2007 WGA strike, they made a strong effort to retain a small portion of residuals, as predicted by the Zuckerman sisters, in preparation for a future scenario similar to the current dominance of streaming platforms.
According to Lilla, the companies were not willing to give us any share of the profits. They argued that they needed time to understand this new media and determine if it would even be successful. Thankfully, we managed to negotiate for some residuals, which is a step in the right direction. Lilla expressed confidence that the Guild is on the right path and everyone is motivated to win this battle. It is just a matter of time before we succeed.
Lex Briscuso is a freelance entertainment writer for IGN, specializing in film and television critique. She can be followed on Twitter at @nikonamerica.
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