Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Actor talks stall without deal

The negotiations between the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the producers group (AMPTP) ended today without a deal for a new primetime contract (link). The current contract expires in just under eight weeks on June 30, after which a strike (and a delay to the start of filming of Lost Season 5 in August) becomes a possible outcome.

The talks had been repeatedly extended, with the most recent extension last Friday due to a promising thaw in some no-compromise issues. However the talks are now indefinitely postponed as the AMPTP now turns to negotiating with AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), the sister actors union which recently divorced SAG for the purpose of joint bargaining. A new round of talks with SAG are not scheduled, although the talks with AFTRA may well end with a deal in only two weeks.

If you haven't been keeping up with the issue, the vast majority of prime-time television, including Lost, are under SAG contracts. The primary area of dispute are payments for DVDs, and new media including downloads and ad-supported streaming.

There are some reasons to believe a strike is not necessarily imminent come June 30. The producers axed the prospect of further negotiations with SAG today, despite SAG's statements that a deal was close; therefore it may be only a pressure tactic when in reality the two sides are closer than ever. Hollywood is still reeling from the recent writer's strike, and it is not a certain prospect that SAG would be able to generate a landslide vote among its own members to actually authorize a strike. Furthermore, SAG may be loathe to strike since it would mean the now-unfriendly sister union AFTRA may gain a larger footprint in prime-time, and a large head start in digital media, the promising new wild-west frontier of acting jurisdiction. However AFTRA is expected to have lesser demands, and it is possible the producers might be unlikely to give SAG more than it gives AFTRA, a scenario which might cause deadlock and a strike.

Anything is still possible. Let's hope for a speedy resolution well in advance of June 30, but for now, stay tuned to the negotiations with AFTRA, as these will affect SAG's future efforts. But for tonight, it's definitely not good news as the end of talks without a deal will do little to settle the nerves of Hollywood.
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