Writers Guild of America, West

Portraits of famous screenwriters line the front hallway of the offices of the Writers Guild of America, West, which reported record-setting revenues among its members. (Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times / November 4, 2007)

Television writers had a record year for earnings in 2012, according to a new report from the Writers Guild of America, West.

TV writers generated $667.2 million in earnings last year, up 10% from the prior year, as writers earned more from cable programs and rental services such as Netflix and Hulu.

Employment among TV writers grew 2%, with 3,508 writers reporting earnings.

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By contrast, employment and earnings in the film arena declined significantly for the third year in a row in 2012, with employment down about 7% to 1,537 writers, and earnings falling 6.1% to $343 million. In the last three years, about 17% fewer writers have been employed on screen as studios have cut back the number of movies they release each year.

Overall, total earnings among WGA, West members grew 4% and exceeded $1 billion for the first time, while overall employment dipped 1% in 2012, according to the report.

The guild also reported that residuals -- the fees writers receive when their work is rerun -- grew to a record high of $348.7 million, up 6% over 2011.  Most of the gains came from cable television residuals and the reuse of programs in new media by such services as Netflix.

Feature-film writers reported residual income of $133.1 million in 2012, up 5% from 2011 but down from the high-water mark of $140.1 million in 2010. DVD and Blu-ray revenue stabilized after a sharp decline in 2011, while residuals from pay television and new media grew.

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