When the newly renamed streaming service Max launched on Tuesday, a number of people noted the refreshed user experience wasn't exactly a joy to navigate (I shared some of my thoughts in yesterday's TooMuchTV newsletter).
But the biggest complaints about the new service came from Hollywood's writers and directors, who quickly noticed they were suddenly stripped of their credits and described as "creators" on whatever TV shows or movies they had worked on.
As you might imagine, this move didn't go over well, given that the industry's writers are in the middle of a nearly four-week old strike and both Hollywood's directors and actors are currently deciding whether they'll do the same.
I contacted a couple of product managers/engineers that I had previously spoken with off the record earlier today and was told that it wasn't clear why it had happened or who had ultimately signed off on the change. There apparently wasn't any record of how the initial change was made in the development software tracking system and the email trails, pull requests and other internal logs hadn't provided any definitive answers.
While it's not clear how the "creators" title ended up in live version of Max, I was told the title was likely a placeholder in an early Alpha build-out of the site template and for whatever reason, no one seems to have noticed it or updated it before the launch.
Now the WGA and DGA Presidents have issued a joint statement regarding the Max credit changes and it sets the tone you would expect to hear from them.
The presidents of the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America West released the following statements decrying the unilateral decision by Warner Bros. Discovery to change the long-standing credits of directors and writers in the new roll-out of Max.
"For almost 90 years, the Directors Guild has fought fiercely to protect the credit and recognition deserved by the Directors for the work they create. Warner Bros. Discovery's unilateral move without notice or consultation, to collapse directors, writers, producers and others into a generic category of "creators" in the new Max roll-out while we are in negotiations with them is a grave insult to our members and our union," said DGA President Lesli Linka Glatter. This devaluation of the individual contributions of artists is a disturbing trend and the DGA will not stand for it. We intend on taking the strongest possible actions, in solidarity with the WGA, to ensure every artist receives the individual credit they deserve."
Said WGAW President Meredith Stiehm, "Warner Bros has lumped writers, directors and producers into an invented, diminishing category they call creators. This is a credits violation for starters. But worse, it is disrespectful and insulting to the artists that make the films and TV shows that make their corporations billions. This attempt to diminish writers' contributions and importance echoes the message we heard in our negotiations with AMPTP - that writers are marginal, inessential, and that should simply accept being paid less and less, while our employers' profits go higher and higher. This tone-deaf disregard for writers' importance is what brought us to where we are today - Day 22 of our strike."
Warner Bros. Discovery also issued a statement apologizing for the move:
"We agree that the talent behind the content on Max deserve their work to be properly recognized. We will correct the credits, which were altered due to an oversight in the technical transition from HBO Max to HBO and apologize for this mistake."
I spend a lot of time in my free daily newsletter talking about these nuts and bolts UI and UX decisions. These are boring things that no one outside the development team usually notices. But these are the details that matter quite a bit when they're not properly managed.
This "creators" tag mistake couldn't have come at a worse time for Warner Bros. Discovery as they and the other studios attempt to negotiate new deals with writers, producers and actors.
This might have been an honest mistake. But it's going to turn into a costly one for the studios, particularly if it strengthens the resolve of the DGA during negotiations.
UPDATE: Someone sent me these comments on Twitter and I think it's good perspective on the issue:
I worked in Content Ops/Metadata at more than one sizeable streaming corp. (Launching the then-full Simpsons VOD library was one of many fun/stressful tasks). The idea that it was a. Accidental AND b. Unnoticed at the top through launch is comical but also believable.
What I find HARD to believe is no Metadata/Ops ppl noticed or anticipated it. As that person, the responses I've got from bringing similar things up in advance have ranged from (OMG stop/fix ASAP) to (ty we'll fix IF ppl complain) to (IDC, GOTTA launch, IGNORE). Last one SUCKS
And if you'd like to have a little fun at the studios' expense - as well as raise a little money for striking writers - you can purchase a fun "Creator" t-shirt or coffee cup at the link below. All profits go to the WGA Strike Fund. And even better, you get 40% Off with code MAYGIFTIDEAS.
Click the photo above to grab yourself a Creator cup or t-shirt. All profits go to WGA Strike Fund
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