Friday, December 07, 2007

Force Majeure

Here's Nikki Finke's report on how the AMPTP is scamming the writers:

I wish I had better news about the AMPTP-WGA contract negotiations, but I don't. I took extra time reporting tonight, and some very surprising developments came to light. For instance, Peter Chernin is privately telling Hollywood that the producers plan to quit the talks any day now. That they have no intention of coming back with another streaming proposal "until we are close". And that they'll only give a better EST formula "at the last minute" when a contract with the writers is virtually signed and sealed.

I can't begin to tell you how these quiet remarks by the Fox/News Corp No. 2 are the complete opposite of what the AMPTP is telling the WGA around the bargaining table.

I'm told Thursday's talks began at 10 AM, and both the WGA and AMPTP had a brief discussion about streaming, made-for-web content pay and jurisdiction, and electronic sell-through (ESTs). Then one of the negotiators from the network and studio CEOs' side declared, "The DVD formula is good for you, and you should embrace it with open arms."

The AMPTP then claimed it had "a proposal coming" supposedly based on the writers' streaming counter-proposal from Tuesday and asked the WGA side to wait around. By 5 pm, it wasn't done. Then the producers claimed they would work on the proposal at the hotel straight through midnight or later and give it to the WGA at Friday's session.

But some of the WGA negotiators hung around the hotel and, to their surprise, watched the AMPTP contingent get in their cars at exactly 6 PM and individually drive off.

(This follows what happened on Wednesday when the AMPTP negotiators asked to break early to celebrate the first day of Chanukah -- yet their official statement later claimed it had been the writers side who didn't want to negotiate late into the evening...)

Chernin, CBS' Les Moonves, and some of the other Hollywood moguls this week keep kvetching about how "frustrating" the AMPTP-WGA talks have become and how "pessimistic" they are about a quick resolution. The bigwigs have even concocted this fiction that they wanted to solve the strike in three intense days of negotiations before Christmas but now they see that's impossible because of the level of mistrust and misunderstanding around the table. My sources tell me the CEOs seem to be looking for any excuse to blame WGA chief negotiator Dave Young specifically for "blowing it".

But the truth is this: the Hollywood moguls have not delivered on their promises. And Chernin's statements make clear they never had any intention of doing so right now. Days are passing, and the AMPTP still hasn't come back with a counter/counter-offer to the WGA's counter-offer to the AMPTP's offer on streaming. Days are passing, and the AMPTP still hasn't come back with the 2nd half of its New Media proposal presumably containing ESTs. Days are passing, and the AMPTP and WGA are still paralyzed on Internet issues, which is why they moved to the subject of Reality TV jurisdiction. Sure that angered the network chiefs. But it came up because of their own stalling tactics.

I'll say this in conclusion. I wouldn't be at all surprised if, as soon as Friday, the AMPTP walks out of the talks with a news release in hand that it's all the WGA's fault.

And I now predict the CEOs will make a big public show of opening talks with the Directors Guild right away. (That's already begun -- today's Los Angeles Times has 300 director-writers begging their DGA to hold off screwing the striking writers...)

And I predict the AMPTP won't return to negotiations with the writers until February at the earliest after declaring force majeure. Please, oh please, prove me wrong.


You can draw your own conclusion, but obviously this is not good news.

3 comments:

Musical Daddy said...

All I've got to say is - there's always comics. Marvel and DC are pretty good about fair market value, and they're always looking for quality writers. Hey - maybe Damon Lindeloff will finally finish the Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk series he started four years ago!

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