Thursday, May 01, 2008

Actor Strike Possible? May Update

As reported in our previous entry, the primetime TV contract talks between the producers (AMPTP) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) is about to end tomorrow, after three workweeks of negotiations.

The prospects don't look good, according to industry press (see Variety). Yesterday, the AMPTP broke media neutrality with a public criticism of SAG, which apparently has not backed off of its hot-button demands, in particular for a doubling of DVD reimbursement as well as its demands for New Media which are significantly better than the terms recently negotiated by the writers (WGA) and directors (DGA). The producers have long said the actors should not expect a better deal than these other unions.

In all likelihood then, talks with SAG will end tomorrow and go on hiatus and the AMPTP begins talks with SAG's rival union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Actors (AFTRA). As a reminder, most primetime shows are under SAG contracts, including Lost. AFTRA only has 3 shows in primetime (they are powerful in daytime TV), but if they can ink a quick deal at less demanding terms, they may be able to get a larger foothold in SAG's traditional territory, and maybe even in upcoming digital new media projects.

Talks may with SAG might resume after AFTRA is finished with its negotiations, but it's already May and the contract expires in two months on June 30. There's plenty of time for more negotiations, and a strike is not for certain, but a quick resolution and ease of mind by tomorrow evening now seems very unlikely. Lost Season 5's timely resumption may hang in the balance. We'll check back tomorrow.
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