Mark Evanier linked to this classic clip show from 1979. He goes into a lot of the programming choices that the networks made while crafting their fall lineups. As always, it’s a great read.
While watching it, though, I thought about my own experience working on clip shows. In 2007, I had the pleasure of working with the team that crafted the get-you-up-to-speed-for-our-last-episodes clip show for Desperate Housewives. I worked on the clearance logs. Those are the list of all the actors, how long their appeared for, which episode the clip was from, etc. That list was used to calculate how much the actors would get paid.
For stars of the show, it was built into their contracts, so the presented no problems. Some of the actors who appeared presented no problems as they were satisfied to receive the Screen Actors Guild minimum (at the time about $750). The problems arose when a higher profile guest star felt they deserved more than the minimum.
Depending on the scene, the episode and its relevance to the over-arching plot of the show, network executives might decide to pay them SAG minimum plus 10%, for example. Or they might simply agree to pay a set fee of $1200. I think it depended first on how good the role was for the show, and almost as importantly, how good their agent was.
The real headaches came when an actor was deemed by the network to be asking for too much. They’d send word to the editors to cut that scene. That meant at best, fresh edits and updates to my clearance log, and at worst, a rewriting of that whole section of the program. Sometimes someone who was edited out would lower their fee and be back in. Sometimes the show’s producers would successfully make the case to keep an actor in despite their high fee. This back-and-forth process took weeks. In the end, it paid off, I think, as the show won its timeslot the Sunday it aired.
To apply all this to the internet, when I watched that clip show, I started thinking about how much each person who appeared would make. If an actor didn’t speak, they didn’t have to be paid. That means Fonzie’s belly dancer is clear. But the two kids that Mork is marrying do, so that would have been $750 each based on the 2007 contract. Now extrapolate that out for the rest of the show. Then extrapolate that out for all the video clips of shows on the internet. And every person who isn’t paid is able to pursue legal action against the network.
Now you can begin to see why the internet has made the networks so crazy.