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WGA deal: Plenty to think about  

WgameetingshrineBy CYNTHIA LITTLETON

There’s a lot to digest from all the info about the WGA deal that has been released in the past few days and discussed at Saturday’s WGA West membership powwow at the Shrine Auditorium (pictured). A few things that stand out, or were pointed out to me by people much smarter than I am about this stuff:

No. 1 — Surprising that more hasn’t been made about the deal’s provision on streaming of library product going back to 1977, which pays scribes 2% of distributor’s gross from the FIRST year of the contract and with NO PROMOTIONAL WINDOW.

The deal defines library product as any program offered for streaming more than one year after the initial telecast of the program. (That’s in line with the DGA’s formula for network primetime shows that are offered for streaming for more than one year, and in line with the WGA’s provision for the first two years of its contract.) That’s probably going to be meaningful for some scribes in the near future as the majors push web initiatives like the NBC Universal-News Corp. joint vid venture Hulu.com, which is based on offering tons of segs, if not entire seasons, of library shows. Right now, ABC.com is offering the first three seasons of “Lost” for ad-supported web streaming, which means those scribes will be paid at the distributor’s gross rate from the get-go once the contract is ratified.

A potential rub could come in the issue of how nets and studios determine the license fee that distribs Wgameetingshrine2 will receive for older episodes that are licensed for web streaming. The issue gets even more complex when it involves different units of the same congloms, as so much of TV production and distribution does these days. Which brings us to the next standout issue in the WGA deal.

No. 2 — What’s all this business about an “imputed value” of $40,000 for an hourlong program and $20,000 for a half-hour program being established upfront for the switch to a distributor’s gross formula for web streaming in the third year of the WGA pact. Isn’t that like cooking the numbers, if both sides already know what the distrib’s gross is going to be three years from now? Especially when it turns out that 2 percent of the “imputed value” works out to only a little more than the fixed residual fee from years one and two?

The answer is yes, and no, I’m told.

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