Deal with net's inhouse producer could mean fewer residuals

In a move kept under wraps for six months, the Screen Actors Guild has signed a deal with TV Land for coverage of shows made by its King Street Prods. with potentially fewer residuals than other SAG-covered shows on basic cable.

SAG confirmed the signing Sunday night after the SAG Watchdog website disclosed the deal, which was signed in August.

“SAG negotiated a deal with TV Land’s inhouse production company, King Street Prods., that covers all programming it makes for TV Land,” a guild spokesman said. “The agreement expands SAG’s coverage in television and utilizes an exhibition day formula for lower-budgeted programs.”

SAG refused to provide further details. The “exhibition day” formula allows reruns to be shown on 12 nonconsecutive days within one year of the first airing of the episode. Once the 12 days have been used, or the year has lapsed, a residual formula would apply.

SAG currently covers one show under the King Street pact – the tentatively titled “God Help Me,” starring Cedric the Entertainer. But that show doesn’t fall under the low-budget formula, which would trigger the “exhibition day” provision.

The deal does not cover TV Land shows such as “Hot in Cleveland” and “The Exes,” which are already covered by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. SAG and AFTRA are seeking member approval of a merger, with ballots due March 30.

The approval came from a SAG standing committee rather than the national board and was not submitted to the membership for approval.

The SAG Watchdog posting by site operator Arlin Miller asserted the deal was not negotiated as part of the “basic cable negotiations” but as a separate deal, deviating from the SAG practice of negotiating national uniform contracts.

“Of course, this is the way they’ve always done business at AFTRA and now, for first time, SAG too,” Miller wrote.

Leaders of the two unions battled over provisions of cable deals in 2007 over free reruns on 30 cable shows covered by AFTRA such as “Dirt,” “Zooey 101,” “Hannah Montana” and “The Sarah Silverman Show.”

SAG’s Membership First faction — which took control of the guild board in 2005 — banded together as AFTRAartists to run for slots on the AFTRA national board, the Los Angeles board and as delegates to the national convention on the platform that AFTRA should only sign deals equivalent to SAG’s. The move didn’t result in a change in AFTRA policy, however.

AFTRA’s contention at the time was that if the shows are shot on digital, either union could go after the program since that area had never been defined and that AFTRA should make these deals with cable networks to avoid producers going non-union.

SAG leaders also clashed with AFTRA that year over the latter’s refusal to reduce its 50-50 participation on the negotiating committees for film-TV and on commercials — despite accounting for far less of the overall earnings. SAG’s complained that AFTRA had been offering producers cheaper contracts in basic cable, while AFTRA accused SAG leaders of being radical and inflexible, asserting that its “one size fits all” approach to contracts resulted in fewer union jobs.

The Membership First faction began losing power in 2008 when the Unite for Strength faction began running on a platform that SAG and AFTRA should merge, partly to prevent such jurisdictional disputes.

SAG First VP Ned Vaughn that the deal underlines why the performers’ unions need to merge, noting that guild members turned down a proposed combo nine years ago.

“If SAG and AFTRA had merged in 2003, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” he said. “Deals like this are the product of competition and it’s another clear reason why we need to merge. If there’s only one union, we can say no with the confidence that no one else can say yes — employers will have nowhere else to turn. That’s the kind of bargaining strength actors deserve, and it’s what a merged SAG-AFTRA will deliver.”

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