Strike Continues, TV Pilot Season in Jeopardy

Talks between WGA writers and the Hollywood studios broke down late last week, and if progress isn’t made in the next four to six weeks, the strike could shut down the 2008 pilot season completely. This, in turn, would jeopardize the so-called network upfronts, in which networks show off their fall programming to advertisers.

While new media compensation was still a sticking point for the two sides, the topics of the latest talks also included jurisdiction over reality TV and animation writers and whether or not the WGA can go out on sympathy strikes with other guilds.

As usual, each side released a statement on its respective web site:

From the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP):

Quite frankly, we’re puzzled and disheartened by an ongoing WGA negotiating strategy that seems designed to delay or derail talks rather than facilitate an end to this strike.

The studios even took a swipe at some of the protest tactics of the WGA:

While the WGA’s organizers can clearly stage rallies, concerts and mock exorcisms, we have serious concerns about whether they’re capable of reaching reasonable compromises that are in the best interests of our entire industry. It is now absolutely clear that the WGA’s organizers are determined to advance their own political ideologies and personal agendas at the expense of working writers and every other working person who depends on our industry for their livelihoods.

And from the WGA:

Today, after three days of discussions, the AMPTP came back to us with a proposal that included a total rejection of our proposal on Internet streaming of December 3.

They are holding to their offer of a $250 fixed residual for unlimited one year streaming after a six-week window of free use. They still insist on the DVD rate for Internet downloads.

They refuse to cover original material made for new media.

This offer was accompanied by an ultimatum: the AMPTP demands we give up several of our proposals, including Fair Market Value (our protection against vertical integration and self-dealing), animation, reality, and, most crucially, any proposal that uses distributor’s gross as a basis for residuals. This would require us to concede most of our Internet proposal as a precondition for continued bargaining. The AMPTP insists we let them do to the Internet what they did to home video.

Ironically, the strike negotiations have morphed into re-runs themselves: Meet, break off talks, repeat. Hopefully there’s a deus ex machina in there somewhere that will save us from the year’s worth of reality TV and game shows that would otherwise await us in 2008.