Net, studio suits: WGA can break us


Executives from Hollywood studios and networks say current Writers Guild of America demands could bankrupt the film and TV industry and that they are "concerned" that a strike may be imminent.

At a press conference in Los Angeles, ABC head Bob Iger also made a veiled threat to TV writers-either sign a new contract with the studios by the network up-fronts or face a fall season filled with reality programs and news shows. "In my opinion, in my strong opinion, when the networks sit down to consider what they are going to put on their fall schedules, if the situation between these companies and the guild remains where it is today, with no end in sight and no solution, etc., the networks are going to have to make decision what to put on their schedule and there will be far fewer scripted programs put on that schedule because they are going to have to protect themselves," Iger told reporters at a press conference in Los Angeles to the stalled negotiations with the WGA. "When that process is put in process, it is irreversible. When you make commitments to programs that are not guild covered, it will be on their schedule and it will go into production on a timely basis that in effect will severely reduce the number of scripted programs on the schedule."

The studios and networks current three-year contract with the WGA is up on May 1 and talks between the two sides broke off three weeks ago. Studio executives say the two sides are more than $110 million apart on a new contract and that a strike could cost the Los Angeles area over $2 billion a month if film and TV production is shut down.

"These profits taken out of these businesses over the next three years will simply bankrupt us and that is an irrefutable fact," says DreakWorks partner Jeffrey Katzenberg. "The place where we find ourselves today is that we are getting down to that magic moment in which reason and reasonableness have got to prevail on both sides."

Nick Counter, the chief negotiator for the studios, says they are waiting for the WGA to come back to the table and that "it's up to them to resume these talks."

A spokesman for the WGA had no comment at press time.

Counter also says talks have yet to begin with the Screen Actors Guild, whose contract with the studios comes due at the end of June. - Joe Schlosser