SAG-AFTRA talks as early as next week

The stage is set for Chernin & Iger, the sequel.

They’re the exec duo that helped to engineer deals with the directors and writers. And now that the SAG-AFTRA negotiations are looming as early as next week, the News Corp. (Peter) and Disney (Bob) toppers are expected to sit down with the actors for exploratory talks.

Though it’s not yet set in stone, the early thinking is that Iger and Chernin would again hammer out the broad outlines of a new feature-primetime deal for the actors — reprising their roles in reaching the Directors Guild of America deal in January and the Writers Guild pact in February.

No date’s been set as of Wednesday afternoon, as leaders of the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television & Radio Artists held the second day of meetings to work up the official contract proposal for approval at Saturday’s joint board meeting.

The negotiations process would then begin at some point next week with a small meeting between both sides — most likely SAG national exec director Doug Allen and AFTRA topper Kim Roberts Hedgpeth for the thesps and AMPTP president Nick Counter and VP Carol Lombardini for the majors. That get-together would be designed to spell out the specifics of each other’s proposals, identify each side’s major issues and set aside peripheral concerns, also known as “clearing away the underbrush,” that could stall negotiations.

Once that meeting’s completed, it’s expected that Iger and Chernin would then become directly involved in the talks via meetings with the union leaders in hopes that a smaller group can focus on the toughest issues more effectively and figure out compromises without talks falling apart.

Although the template for a SAG-AFTRA deal’s in place in the wake of the pacts for directors and writers, negotiations are expected to be complex — partly due to the uncertainties in new media and partly due to the long-standing acrimony between SAG and AFTRA.

Iger and Chernin first became involved in small-scale, informal DGA talks in December, after WGA negotiations imploded on Dec. 7. The WGA talks, which often took place with dozens of reps for both sides, had often been difficult as the guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers often resorted to vituperative public statements — even before the strike began on Nov. 5.

Two days after the WGA strike ended on Feb. 12, the AMPTP announced it was ready to start negotiations with SAG and AFTRA. While AFTRA’s indicated it’s eager to do so, SAG’s insisted that it can’t give an answer until after the Saturday board meeting.

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