Strike Talks in Hiatus Until Tuesday

Day four of the restarted negotiations ended with the writers asking for a hiatus until Tuesday, so that they can consider the AMPTP's latest proposal. Unfortunately, the new and exciting proposal is anything but that. Patrick Verrone just sent this letter to members explaining what happened.

To My Fellow Members,

After four days of bargaining with the AMPTP, I am writing to let you know that, though we are still at the table, the press blackout has been lifted.

Our inability to communicate with our members has left a vacuum of information that has been filled with rumors, both well intentioned and deceptive.

Among the rumors was the assertion that the AMPTP had a groundbreaking proposal that would make this negotiation a "done deal." In fact, for the first three days of this week, the companies presented in essence their November 4 package with not an iota of movement on any of the issues that matter to writers.

Thursday morning, the first new proposal was finally presented to us. It dealt only with streaming and made-for-Internet jurisdiction, and it amounts to a massive rollback.

From streaming television episodes, the companies proposed a residual structure of a single fixed payment of less than $250 for a year's reuse of an hour-long program (compared to over $20,000 payable for a network rerun). For theatrical product they are offering no residuals whatsoever for streaming.

For made-for-Internet material, they offered minimums that would allow a studio to produce up to a 15 minute episode of network-derived web content for a script fee of $1300. They continued to refuse to grant jurisdiction over original content for the Internet.

In their new proposal, they made absolutely no move on the download formula (which they propose to pay at the DVD rate), and continue to assert that they can deem any reuse "promotional," and pay no residual (even if they replay the entire film or TV episode and even if they make money).

The AMPTP says it will have additional proposals to make but, as of Thursday evening, they have not been presented to us. We are scheduled to meet with them again on Tuesday.

In the meantime, I felt it was essential to update you accurately on where negotiations stood. On Wednesday we presented a comprehensive economic justification for our proposals. Our entire package would cost this industry $151 million over three years. That's a little over a 3% increase in writer earnings each year, while company revenues are projected to grow at a rate of 10%. We are falling behind.

For Sony, this entire deal would cost $1.68 million per year. For Disney $6.25 million. Paramount and CBS would each pay about $4.66 million, Warner about $11.2 million, Fox $6.04 million, and NBC/Universal $7.44 million. MGM would pay $320,000 and the entire universe of remaining companies would assume the remainder of about $8.3 million per year. As we've stated repeatedly, our proposals are more than reasonable and the companies have no excuse for denying it.

The AMPTP's intractability is dispiriting news but it must also be motivating. Any movement on the part of these multinational conglomerates has been the result of the collective action of our membership, with the support of SAG, other unions, supportive politicians, and the general public. We must fight on, returning to the lines on Monday in force to make it clear that we will not back down, that we will not accept a bad deal, and that we are all in this together.

Best,
Patric M. Verrone
President, WGAW
Is the AMPTP just throwing this out there as a negotiating tactic? Because they can't really think writers will actually accept a rollback on residuals so they get even less than they do now? Perhaps on Tuesday the WGA should up their demands substantially, because apparently the studios think it's a game of chicken.

Meanwhile, advertisers are not happy that all the new scripted shows are coming to an end. And that has to have the AMPTP worried, no matter what they say.

(Via United Hollywood.)

Posted on November 29, 2007

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