Writers, studios strike tentative deal


The Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers have reached a tentative agreement on a new, three-year contract, a contract WGA executives call "the best deal" for the guild in three decades.

WGA executives say they will gain $41 million over the life of the three-year deal, much of it coming from increased residuals. They had been hoping for something north of $100 million, however. The guild's 11,000 members have to ratify the deal. A vote, and ratification, are expected to come early next week. Also as part of the deal, Fox will have to make full residual payments to writers rather than the 50% they had been paying (relative to the Big Three). Writers will also receive a 1.2% increase in video-on-demand and pay TV residuals. No deal was struck on Internet compensation, which the two sides will handle on a case-by-case basis until an agreement can be reached.

The new contract averts the first potentially crippling strike facing Hollywood this summer. The second involves the Screen Actors Guild, which has until June 30 to reach a new accord with the AMPTP. Talks between SAG and the studios had tentatively been set to begin in Los Angeles this week, but will likely be put on hold at least another week.

"There is no date set," says SAG's Greg Krizman. "I would imagine the other studio guys will want another day or two to blow off some steam or whatever, but I don't think we would want them to come back right away. Maybe they'll just want to slog through; we'll see."

Network and Madison Ave. executives were optimistic that the SAG strike could be similarly averted. The major networks head to New York next week to unveil their fall lineups to advertisers. "We don't think there is going to be a strike," says NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker. "We will be prepared just in case. But we are very hopeful this is all going to be settled."

Advertisers and media buyers, who have to decide where to spend their millions within the next several weeks, were understandably thrilled to hear of the pending settlement. Media buyer Paul Schulman called it great news. "Most of my clients are very program-sensitive clients and they want to know what shows they are going to be in when they make their upfront buys."

Schulman added: "There are still some worries about the actors settling, but the fact that the writers are settling is a good sign and, hopefully, the same type of negotiating strategies can be used and the same settlements can be arrived at and we will not have any strike at all. It will be great for the Hollywood community, which it would have crippled, and it's terrific for the buyers. Now all we have to worry about is a slow economy." - Joe Schlosser