SAG outlines new-media value

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As SAG continued its negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers on Thursday, the actors union sent its second report to membership, outlining their position on new media and why it is important to actors.

Focusing on new media, SAG's Contract 2008 Report, No. 2, indicates that 9 billion videos are watched online every month, with YouTube alone having more than 200 million unique visitors a month.

The report states that the leading 100 media companies will earn $20.7 billion in Internet revenue, with advertisers forecast to spend $2.9 billion annually on online video ads by 2010.

"All this adds up to tremendous opportunities for actors," the report indicates before outlining recent trends being seen in TV and film.

On the TV side, among some things SAG sees as an opportunity for actors residuals are shows being streamed multiple times before broadcast and content made exclusively for the Internet being created to complement the fall lineup, according to the report.

In film, "ad-supported streams, downloads for rental and electronic sell-through of feature films are now available," and producers are "setting up new studio systems for the creation and distribution of new-media content."

SAG's demands to the AMPTP include "reasonable" minimums and residuals for actors working in content made for new media, "reasonable" residuals for work moved from traditional to new media and "reasonable" protections and compensation for work moved from new media to traditional.

As far as jurisdiction over new media, SAG told its members that the union "is not asking for jurisdiction in new media to be granted by the AMPTP because we already have jurisdiction."

"In fact, through our new-media organizing efforts, we have already signed over 400 independent producers to SAG new-media contracts, and the number is growing daily," the report stated.

Each report presents the union's position on a particular issue. SAG plans to release another report today that addresses residuals.

Meanwhile, SAG's sister union, AFTRA, said that it has formed an exploratory committee to study proposals for "affected member voting" for major freelance performer contracts. AFTRA's national board voted to look into the issue at its March 29 meeting.

Affected member voting involves members who work under a particular contract to vote on that contract. The performers union always has applied such voting to its broadcasters' contracts and to a few freelance performer contracts, such as interactive and sound recording contracts. The new proposals expand the concept to major freelance performer contracts.

"As both a working actor and a union president, I am thrilled that the working performers who brought forward this issue are engaged and providing input to their union," AFTRA president Roberta Reardon said. "The suggestions by these AFTRA members to apply affected member voting to other contracts, such as primetime dramatic/Exhibit A, were developed by performers in good faith at a grass-roots level and deserve thoughtful, timely consideration and responses from the leadership of their union."

The special committee, chaired by Stephen Collins in Los Angeles and Ed Fry in New York, must develop and submit a preliminary report and recommendations to AFTRA's administrative committee by May 23. A final report is due at the next national board meeting June 6-7 in Los Angeles.

The committee also is consulting with actors who initiated a petition calling for affected member voting for major TV contracts, which now has more than 1,500 signatures, according to AFTRA.

SAG and the studios are set to meet again today and Saturday at the AMPTP's headquarters in Sherman Oaks. After a break Sunday, talks will resume Monday.
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