NEW YORK – Striking television and film writers took their fight to the money men Tuesday, marching on Wall Street to complain that the nation's media giants aren't sharing the wealth from their efforts to put content online.
Members of the Writers Guild of America, waving signs that read "Pens Down" and "We won't even write slogans," came to the nation's financial capital as the strike headed into its second week.
"It seems like the heads of the studios like to come to Wall Street and say how much money they're making online," said Seth Meyers, head writer on "Saturday Night Live" and co-anchor of SNL's "Weekend Update."
"Right now, no one has to be Nostradamus to know that in three years, everyone's going to be watching television in a totally different way."
Writers have been on strike since Nov. 5 over payments for films and TV shows viewed on the Internet.
The picketers were targeting such media conglomerates as Viacom Inc., which owns Comedy Central and MTV; News Corp., owner of the Fox TV and film studios; CBS Corp.; The Walt Disney Co. and others.
"CEOs brag to Wall Street about how much money they are making through new media ... but cry poverty to the writers who are making them rich," said a flier the picketers handed out near the New York Stock Exchange.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the group representing TV and film producers, had no immediate comment, a representative said Tuesday.
On Tuesday, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger planned to speak with producers' representatives to see if he could help resolve the strike, a spokesman said. The governor spoke with writers' representatives a day earlier.
Neil Begley, a media and entertainment analyst for Moody's, said media executives boast about the potential profits to be made on the Internet, but added that some of their predictions may be overly optimistic.
"Those opportunities, from a revenue perspective, are still relatively nascent," he said. Begley estimated that less than 5 percent of broadcast networks' revenues come from digital sources.
Writers get paid when TV episodes and films are downloaded from Internet stores or when episodes or films are rented online, but writers believe they aren't being paid enough for online sales and rentals. Writers do not get paid when TV shows are streamed for free on advertising-supported network sites such as ABC.com or Hulu.com.
As in previous days, some big names showed up on the picket line including actor and writer Michael Imperioli, who played Christopher Moltisanti on "The Sopranos."
Writers from "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" set up a mock news desk at the scene and filmed a spoof newscast on the strike. With television production shut down, they planned to post the video online.
In Los Angeles, dozens of famous actors turned up to picket after the Screen Actors Guild told its members that, while they still had to turn up for work, they could show solidarity with striking writers. Zach Braff, star of NBC's "Scrubs," Ben Stiller, comedian Sarah Silverman, Lily Tomlin and Julia Louis-Dreyfus were among those joining the marchers.
"On our crew alone, 200 people will be out of work next week, just in time for the holidays," said Braff. "It's about egos now. They've got to get back to the bargaining table."
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and guild member Tony Kushner said that whatever the networks' profits, the writers just want to be certain they'll have a share.
"If they don't make money off of it, then we won't make money off of it. If they do make money off of it, we should make money off of it," Kushner said. "We'd have to live for a very long time with the consequences of backing down."
Kushner said he stopped working on a screenplay with Steven Spielberg when the strike was called.