Choices Narrow for Commercial Contracts Consultants

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Talent Unions and the ad industry have picked nine outside consultants to bid on a project that they hope will ease their negotiations on new commercial talent contracts in the digital age.

They are looking to commission a joint study of various compensation models for commercials that are appearing on TV and radio as well as new plaftorms like cellphones and the Internet. The SAG/AFTRA talent contracts expire Oct. 29, 2006.

The RFP is something of a tall order, saying the study must be "comprehensive" and take into account the interests of performers, unions, advertisers, agencies, production companies, talent and payroll services, casting directors and "cost consultants."

The finalists were picked by the ad industry's Joint Policy Committee, SAG and AFTRA, and drawn from an initial pool of respondents to a request for qualifications issued in March.

New-media appearances, say advertisers, have been added onto compensation packages without taking into account the increasingly targeted nature of the business.

"The payment structures in the current collective bargaining agreements with SAG/AFTRA were originally developed to meet the needs and problems of the early 1950s," said lead JPC negotiator Douglas J. Wood back in March. "As different means of broadcasting were developed, new payment streams were added on to the contract, creating enormous administrative complexity, distortions in the allocation of compensation, and the potential for out-of-control costs."

His example of a distortion was "talent payments for broadcasts that reach very small audiences
can today exceed the actual cost of the media."

Wood said that the new model must take into account cellphones and iPods, suggesting the targeted nature of some of the new delivery systems' needs be factored in.

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