The Web series reflect the networks’ headlong drive to harness the Internet and lure a young, and increasingly elusive, audience. Yet the online rush has heightened tensions between the major studios and networks and the unionized actors and writers who fear being shortchanged by this new digital frontier.
To handle much of the Web work, networks are relying heavily on nonunion scribes and guild writers who are quietly working outside of union contracts. In some cases, networks and television studios have created separate nonunion companies to create original online entertainment on shoestring budgets.
They also have launched digital studios that serve as “farm teams” for new concepts on the Web that might one day get drafted for the major leagues of prime time.
The issue of how to compensate talent for work distributed online is central to contentious contract talks with writers — and could trigger the first major strike in Hollywood in nearly two decades.