Guild talks end sans pact; next up, AFTRA

SAG has run out of time to make a new feature-primetime deal with the majors and has been pushed aside in favor of AFTRA — probably until late May.

The failure of SAG and the companies to make a deal after 18 days of talks will ignite fears that SAG will strike when its deal expires June 30. SAG president Alan Rosenberg told Daily Variety that SAG will now “take the temperature of the membership” and may seek a strike authorization from members as early as next week but he also portrayed the guild leadership as wanting to avoid a work stoppage.

“Our negotiating team is prepared to work around the clock for as long as it takes to get a fair deal,” he said. “We want to keep the town working.”

Rosenberg said the two sides were within reach of a deal on Tuesday — an assessment in stark contrast with how the companies portrayed the collapse of the talks.

The companies said SAG’s been unreasonable and unrealistic and said differences remain on DVD residuals, streaming, made for new media, and new-media use of clips and library material.

“Under these circumstances, with SAG’s continued adherence to unreasonable demands in both new and traditional media, continuing negotiations at this time does not make sense,” the AMPTP said. “In the end, this round of SAG negotiations ended without an agreement because SAG simply refused to recognize the fundamental business and labor principles that have already been accepted by directors, writers and producers.”

In the meantime, the American Federation of Teleivision & Radio Artists will launch its primetime bargaining this morning with the AMPTP. That negotiation’s widely expected to end in a deal within two weeks.

AFTRA’s talks had been delayed twice to give SAG a chance to close its deal but the congloms were unwilling Tuesday to agree to one more delay. Instead, as previously planned, the congloms pulled the plug on the SAG talks early Tuesday evening, despite objections from SAG that a deal was within reach.

Rosenberg said he believes AFTRA will hold firm on issues that are important to SAG. But that’s a questionable assessment, given the far more moderate approach that AFTRA’s taken in recent years.

SAG’s also running the risk of losing new TV shows by not making a deal before AFTRA. Once AFTRA has its deal in hand, it can start signing shows shot on digital — an area of shared jurisdiction — since producers will probably prefer dealing with AFTRA than SAG.

Rosenberg and SAG singled out the AMPTP’s proposal for use of clips from libraries in new-media formats, which called for lifting the requirement that actors be allowed to give their consent. The AMPTP contended that while they are willing to require payment for such use, the notification requirement would make such a business unprofitable.

The AMPTP also attempted to isolate SAG, noting it has already reached three agreements covering new media with the WGA, the DGA and with AFTRA on its network code.

“Despite the existence of these recent three agreements, and despite SAG’s direct experience with the WGA strike and the AFTRA network code negotiations, SAG negotiators came to this newest round of negotiations with more than 36 major new proposals — and more than a few of those were deal-breakers,” it said. “The AMPTP negotiators took the opposite approach, introducing a modest package of just eight narrowly tailored proposals.”

The companies were particularly troubled as SAG insisted on improved terms for new media without any thresholds. The DGA deal, for example, exempted made-for-Internet original shows on which production costs are less than $15,000 per minute, $300,000 per program, or $500,000 per series, whichever is lowest.

Rosenberg said that the AMPTP’s new-media proposal is unacceptable because it would allow nonunion actors to work side by side with SAG actors.

As for AFTRA, it announced a few hours before the SAG talks ended that it would begin its twice-delayed primetime talks Wednesday. AFTRA’s contract covers “Rules of Engagement,” “Cashmere Mafia,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Flight of the Conchords,” “Dante’s Cove,” “Reaper” and ” ‘Til Death.”

AFTRA split from joint negotiations with SAG in late March over a nasty jurisdictional dispute stemming from actors on “The Bold and the Beautiful” attempting to decertify from AFTRA.

AFTRA’s negotiating team will be headed by Matthew Kimbrough, along with president Roberta Reardon and national exec director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth. As with the SAG talks, the negotiations will include a news blackout and take place at AMPTP headquarters in Encino.

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