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Screen Actors Guild Rejects AMPTP Offer

7/18/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

The Screen Actors Guild rejected the June 30 contract offer by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, stating that the contract “template” established by pacts with writers and directors does not protect actors, particularly on Internet issues.

In a letter to SAG members, chief negotiator and national executive director Doug Allen said the programming “landscape has dramatically shifted” in the six months since the contract was signed with the Directors Guild of America.

The union cited dozens of investments in media streaming and video-on-demand delivery models by major media companies since the beginning of the year. “The seven global conglomerates that own motion picture studios and television networks are so confident in their digital media prospects that they are putting up huge dollars to fast track their technology deals,” he wrote to members.

SAG is displeased with the current offer because the union believes it gives producers a “pass” on residuals for non-union new- media projects, as long as the budget is kept below $15,000 per minute. SAG has apparently countered with terms that would base made-for-new-media residuals on a fixed percentage, meaning that if the content made no money, actors would get no residuals.

“We want to make a deal as soon as possible, but we don't want to make a deal that hurts actors,” Allen wrote. “No deal is better than a bad deal that lets non-union productions by our employers and snuffs out residuals for projects made for and rerun on new-media platforms.”

The letter also cited a June article in Forbes magazine that said ad rates were falling on user-generated content sites like YouTube, while ad buyers invested in ads at TV streaming sites, “a format advertisers understand.”

The biggest changes since the approval of the directors' contract, countered the AMPTP, are the worsening credit crisis and skyrocketing energy costs. The AMPTP reiterated that its contract provides more than $250 million in new benefits and compensation.

“AMPTP has offered to extend SAG jurisdiction to original new- media production, including low-budget programs that employ a single 'covered actor.' The AMPTP's final offer also guarantees residuals of 3.6% of distributor's gross when original new-media productions are reused on consumer pay platforms, and terms to increase pay and residuals if the program is eventually exhibited theatrically or on television. These terms are a major advancement for SAG members compared to the existing contract terms,” according to the AMPTP.

Meanwhile, no new meetings have been announced between the two sides.

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