Hollywood Labor Roundup

Keeping you up to date on miscellaneous goings-on in the world of Hollywood labor, here's what's happened in the last week or so:

  • SAG Commercials Negotiations. These continue in NY under a press blackout. No news to report.
  • SAG TV/Theatrical Contract. Rumors abound that a top CAA exec or a studio chief might get involved in trying to mediate between SAG and the AMPTP. Unclear if there's any substance to the reports.
  • Counter Leaving. The AMPTP confirmed what had been an open secret: after 27 years (and after negotiating a staggering 311 union contracts), the studio alliance's president, Nick Counter, is retiring. That will be effective March 31, 2009. His deputy, Carol Lombardini, executive VP, will serve as acting president, and Counter will continue on as a consultant, including on the SAG negotiations, whenever there are any again.
  • Chernin Leaving. After 20 years at Fox, thirteen of them as News Corp.'s president and COO, Rupert Murdoch's deputy, Peter Chernin, is retiring. That's of interest to union watchers because Chernin and Disney's Bob Iger played a role in brokering a deal to end the writers strike last year. Now it seems less likely that Chernin could play such a role in the SAG stalemate, assuming anybody could.
  • DGA Hires New Media Consultant. Already planning for thee 2011 labor negotiating cycle, the forward-looking Directors Guild has hired new media consultancy Wolzien LLC to study the issues. Wolzien, whose principal (and apparently sole employee) is Tom Wolzien, was one of two consultancies that performed a similar function for the DGA leading up to the 2007-2008 negotiations. (The other firm has never been publicly identified.)
  • WGA Executive Director David Young Defends Writers Strike. Well, what did you expect? Young lays out his case in a statement on the WGA website, which includes a handy chart and a bullet point list (see below).

  • Leno Haled Into
    WGA Court
    . Jay Leno is facing the music for writing his own material during the WGA strike, which the WGA contends was a violation of strike rules. No word on a verdict yet.


Subscribe to my blog (jhandel.com) for more about SAG, or digital media law generally. Go to the blog itself to subscribe via RSS or email. Or, follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, or subscribe to my Huffington Post articles.


WGA Chart of Improvements over Studios' Last, Best and Final Offer

Top of Form

November 4 AMPTP offer

February 9 final deal

Internet ad-supported streaming - in the first year of the life of a television program

Free for 6 weeks; 1.2% of producer's gross thereafter (equal to 0.24% of distributor's gross)

Free for 17 or 24 days; 3% of applicable minimum; switches for network prime time in the third year of the contract to 2% of distributor's gross

Internet ad-supported streaming - after the first year of the life of a program

1.2% of producer's gross

2.0% of distributor's gross

Internet ad-supported streaming feature films

No residual offered = zero

1.2% of distributor's gross

Electronic Sell-Through (Download to Own)

DVD rates (0.3% and 0.36% of distributor's gross)

0.65% and 0.7% of distributor's gross (though the companies are now reneging on covering library product with these negotiated rates)

Internet Download Rentals

1.2% of distributor's gross

1.2% of distributor's gross

Fair Market Value test

Same as 2001 contract

Enhanced test for related-party transactions

Inspection of New Media Deals and Activity reports


Rights for quarterly inspections of unredacted company records

Promotional use in new media

Free, however they define it, including ad-supported streaming of complete programs

Clips only are free and only with clearly promotional purpose


Jurisdiction over dramatic forms only if derived from MBA-covered scripted programs; excludes original, comedy-variety, serials, etc.

Jurisdiction over all New Media programs; terms and conditions applied to all but the lowest-budgeted productions, only when done by non-professional writers

Creator's rights ("Separated" Rights)


TV Separated Rights adapted to New Media

WGA List of Improvements Over the DGA Deal

  • The DGA won EST [i.e., Electronic Sell-Through] at 0.65% and 0.7% only for movies and TV first released in 2008. The WGA won EST at 0.65% and 0.7% for our entire library of product - although the companies are trying to renege on this, forcing us to seek arbitration.
  • The DGA won only a small raise in the third year of streaming. The WGA, for the first time ever, won a formula by which the writer will be paid 2% of Distributors Gross in the third year of streaming.
  • The DGA sunsetted all New Media provisions in their contract. WGA accepted no such sunset clause - we don't want to start from zero in these hard fought areas when we go back to the bargaining table in 2011.