‘Suits’ Was Streamed For 3 Billion Minutes on Netflix and the Writers Were Collectively Paid $3,000

This post is by Jason Hellerman from No Film School

It’s impossible to log into Netflix and not see Suits. The show was in the Top 10 for weeks and re-entered the cultural lexicon thanks to new viewers.

Netflix has been very good for TV shows that didn’t reach a wide audience the first go around. Suits, which ran from 2011 to 2019, is also streaming on Peacock, which holds all nine seasons of the 134 episode long series.

Its availability and newfound popularity allowed the show to be streamed over three billion minutes in one week, and many times more than that cumulatively since debuting on both platforms. So what do the writers who came up with this show get paid for that kind of success? Surely, there’s some sort of monetary windfall if your show allows a streaming platform to retain that many viewers.

Well, Suits writer and producer Ethan Drogin wrote a piece for the Los Angeles Times where he broke down what residuals look like on a hit show that finds a second life.

How Much Were the Writers of ‘Suits’ Paid?

Drogin told them exactly how much he’s made, saying. “$259.71: That’s how much the Suits episode I wrote, “Identity Crisis,” earned last quarter in streaming residuals. 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.”

That means that despite the show being a resurgent hit, there were no big secondary payouts. All the benefits go to the platforms for putting the show on there, and almost none go to the people who made it happen.

If this was a network show that went into syndication, writers would be paid agreed-upon residuals every time their episode was rerun. Reruns usually pay around 50 percent of your original script fee, and continue to half every time they rerun, stopping at another figure.

As you can see, with streaming, there needs to be a complete redesign of the production model for fair compensation.

Suits is also a great example of a show where writers who started the series are allowed to continue to develop it. In Hollywood today, mini rooms are used to break out a series. They consist of writers who come up with episode ideas, flesh out characters, and shepherd storylines.
Writers are not getting the chance to stay and develop stories that have the chance to do well. If writers are staying, they are not getting the residuals they deserve from streaming services like Peacock and Netflix.

All the WGA wants are fair wages and residuals for their hard work over the years that are making everyone else money.