Hollywood writers vow internet breakaway

Forget Warner Brothers, Universal and Disney. Say goodnight and good luck to CBS, NBC and Fox. The Hollywood studio model is about to be turned upside down.

Leading film and TV writers, accompanied by actors, directors and Silicon Valley investors, are poised to announce the creation of new ventures aimed at bypassing the studios.

"It's a whole new model to bring content directly to the masses," screenwriter Aaron Mendelsohn said.

He is not alone. Seven groups are thought to be working on forming companies to challenge the dominance of the studios.

The new companies plan to create programmes and films and distribute them on the internet, circumventing the old model of big studios owned by even bigger parent companies churning out content and controlling when and where it is seen.

The developments come as the screenwriters' strike drags on. It is estimated that the strike could cost Los Angeles between $NZ490m and $3.2bn.

One consequence of the standoff is that the people who make the programmes and films have seen that they can get their message out without the help of the studios.

"The strike videos confirmed that you can create content directly for the internet and find an audience," said director and writer George Hickenlooper, who has made a series of short films - under the title Speechless - in support of the writers.

Some big TV names are already subtly shifting the way their programmes are made. Late-night TV comedian David Letterman has reached a deal that will let his show return to the air next week with his writing staff.

- Sunday Star Times