‘Suits’ writers confirm: the streamers are screwing us out of residuals

One of the biggest hits of the year is a TV show which ran on basic cable from 2011 through 2019. Suits enjoyed lowkey popularity during its original run, but the show has become massively popular now that it’s streaming on Peacock, Amazon Prime and Netflix. The series has over three billion minutes viewed in streaming, and it’s one of Netflix’s most-watched shows this year. As I said in previous coverage, everyone who worked on Suits is getting ripped off by this steaming success. This is a huge part of why the WGA and SAG-AFTRA unions are striking: because even with billions of streams, the writers and actors are only being paid pennies in residuals. While the Suits actors haven’t publicized what they’ve received in residuals, a few writers from the series are speaking about how little they’re being paid in residuals.

Since moving from Prime Video to Netflix on June 17, Suits viewership has skyrocketed. The series holds a steady spot in Netflix’s weekly Top 10 chart, and from July 3 to July 9 Nielsen reported it garnered a whopping 3.7 billion viewing minutes on Peacock and Netflix combined. In doing so, the show set a new record as “streaming’s most viewed acquired title for a single week,” smashing the one set one week prior — by Suits. But as the show becomes a blockbuster hit in 2023, writers from the series are speaking out on sizably reduced residuals from the streaming sensation.

Sisters Nora and Lilla Zuckerman served as producers on Suits Season 4, supervising producers on Season 5, and writers on both 16-episode seasons. Yet their residual checks don’t properly reflect the show’s streaming success — one of the egregious issues WGA and SAG-AFTRA members are fighting to amend on the picket lines. To stress the severity of the situation, during a Zoom call with Decider, the Zucks pulled up residual payments received for a single episode of Suits from both 2016 and 2023. For writing “Blowback” (Season 5, Episode 11), “I received $12,568.57 in residuals,” Lilla said. “That was back in 2016, where I imagine it was probably being sold internationally and re-airing on USA. This year, 2023, where Suits has been viewed for billions and billions of hours on Netflix, I received the grand total of $414.26 on that episode.”

Meanwhile, Ethan Drogin — who served as a writer, producer, and executive story editor throughout eight of Suits‘ nine seasons — revealed in an LA Times article that he only received $259.71 in streaming residuals last quarter for writing the Season 1 episode, “Identity Crisis.” Furthermore, he reported that “All together, NBCUniversal paid the six original Suits writers less than $3,000 last quarter to stream our 11 Season 1 episodes on two platforms.”

Despite the series’ recent surge, Suits writers aren’t seeing anything close to the residual amounts they received before the streaming era. “It’s really hard to sort through all these checks, because you get dozens of them that are like $7 here, $30 there, and so forth. But that’s with Suits airing on two different major streaming platforms. It’s this blockbuster hit, and I received a grand total of $414 for it,” Lilla explained. “You hope that maybe some magical check will arrive, but it does not appear,” Nora added.

[From Decider]

I remember back when Friends was originally airing on NBC, the cast worked together to not only be paid the same per episode, but negotiate a special deal with the residuals for the show. Meaning, the cast negotiated a side-deal to get paid millions in residuals when repeats aired on cable. I wonder if the side-deal also included streaming? Because Friends was also a huge hit on Netflix for a time. Anyway, sorry for that tangent, but my larger point is, the streamers are screwing over everyone. The Suits writers, producers and show runners are getting screwed out of tens of thousands of dollars in residuals and you know it’s the same for the cast as well.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, NBC/USA/Suits.

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