Hollywood Writers, Producers Resume Battle
The war of words is back on in the Hollywood writers strike.
Contract negotiations temporarily ceased Thursday, with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers and the Writers Guild of America issuing starkly contrasting statements characterizing the progress made last week during four days of talks.
Networks and studios said they offered a “groundbreaking” new-media plan they claim will add $130 million in compensation for writers. The WGA said the proposal amounts to “a massive rollback.”
The new-media arena is at the heart of the disagreement between the writers and their employers. Writers want to secure what they see as a fair share of residual payments generated when TV shows are streamed on the Web and other media. The producers and networks have said it’s difficult to gauge how much revenue new media will generate.
Both sides have agreed to resume negotiations Tuesday. According to the AMPTP, the WGA asked for time to study the proposal. The guild in a statement said its response isn’t going to be favorable.
On Friday afternoon, the AMPTP said in a letter to its member companies that its plan, dubbed the “New Economic Partnership,” represented “one of the largest compensation increases of any major union contract negotiated in recent American history.”
The offer adds two new potential sources of revenue for writers: residual payments for online streaming and WGA representation for “derivative” programming made for new media (such as Web episodes for existing TV shows).
The proposal kicked off a new round of dueling numbers between the writers and their employers.
The producers and networks pegged the annual value of the plan at more than $130 million on top of “the $1.3 billion writers already receive each year.”
The WGA said its proposal, presented Wednesday, would deliver writers $151 million over three years.
The union complained that the first three days of talks effectively produced a stalemate. On Thursday, the AMPTP made a proposal that represented new movement, but did not include theatrical residuals for streaming and other concerns.
The union said the plan continues to apply a DVD residual formula for download-to-own titles that writers deem too stingy. The WGA continued to assert that under the proposal, an entire film or TV episode could be streamed for “promotional” use, effectively keeping them from sharing in residual profits.
The proposal, the WGA continued, includes a fixed payment residual structure paying $250 for a year’s use of an hourlong program online, compared to $20,000 for a repeat aired on a broadcast network.
“The AMPTP’s intractability is dispiriting news, but it must also be motivating,” the WGA said in its statement. “Any movement on the part of these multinational conglomerates has been the result of the collective action of our membership.”
The AMPTP counters that their proposal is “in fact a very big ‘roll’ forward” that increases the average working writer’s salary as much as $31,000 annually. The AMPTP also expressed disappointment at the WGA’s rapid public dismissal of its plan.
“[We] were disappointed to see such a quick and decisive attack on the plan that they had asked for so much time to study … we believe to generate the necessary momentum to reach a deal, we must be at the table talking.”
Updated at 4:00 PM