In Depth

WGA Strike Talks Bring Progress

The Writers Guild of America strike, which has crippled the regular business of the television broadcast networks, may be headed for a conclusion this week.

Informal talks between the guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers have eliminated major roadblocks to a compromise, the New York Times reported, citing people who were briefed on the situation. The informal talks have been proceeding under a media blackout for about two weeks.

The two sides still need to agree on key parts of an agreement. If they do, a deal may be presented to WGA and AMPTP leaders by the end of this week, the New York Times said. The breakthrough happened Friday after two weeks of informal talks, and followed the agreement on a tentative contract between the Directors Guild of America and the studios.

The main sticking points in the writers’ negotiations have centered on how they will be compensated for shows that are distributed on the Web. Friday’s talks brought a breakthrough on the crucial issue of how writers get paid for advertising-supported shows that are streamed over the Internet free to viewers, the Los Angeles Times said.

Specifics still need to be resolved, including how to differentiate Web shows from Web promotions, the Los Angeles Times reported. That will determine the extent to which networks can run segments on the Internet to tout shows before writers are entitled to a cut.

The three-month-long strike has been the costliest to the industry in two decades. Resolution of the work stoppage would let thousands of Hollywood workers return to their jobs and let the networks rush to create the pilot episodes that would salvage the upcoming fall season, the Los Angeles Times said.

A settlement also would permit the broadcast of the Academy Awards to go forward on Feb. 24. The gala was in jeopardy of being stalled by actors deciding to not cross WGA picket lines at the event.

The tentative deal between the writers and the studios is based on the directors’ pact, which doubles residual payments for material distributed on the Web, the Los Angeles Times said. It also gives the DGA jurisdiction over shows created for the Web (above a set budget amount) and sets payments for free, streaming video.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the studios offered the writers more favorable terms in some respects, including more favorable pay for streaming. The studios also reportedly offered writers rights for programs originated on the Web. Those terms would give writers extra pay for Internet shows that spawn TV pilots.

--Greg Baumann