AMPTP, helmers keep talking



With rumors flying of an imminent deal, it's safe to say Day Three of the DGA's contract talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers went well enough for another session to be scheduled for Tuesday.

Hollywood has the collective sense that the directors will quickly hammer out a new contract to replace the DGA pact set to expire June 30. Whether the striking WGA embraces the terms of any such pact is quite another matter, however.

Writers walked picket lines throughout Los Angeles on Monday and set plans for another major rally in New York for Wednesday, when WGA East members will protest outside the Central Park West production site of ABC's soap opera "One Life to Live." No new negotiation sessions between the WGA and the AMPTP are envisioned until after the DGA concludes its contract talks -- and perhaps not immediately even then.

The WGA's most recent contract with the AMPTP expired Oct. 31. Its talks with the group collapsed on Dec. 7, with new-media compensation a key issue, thought it was other matters like a demand for first-time jurisdiction over reality TV that prompted studio reps to bolt the discussions.

Details on the DGA's negotiations -- held daily since Saturday at AMPTP headquarters in Encino -- have been scant because of a press blackout. But management and the directors have said it can be assumed that some progress is being made in the talks as long as the parties are still at the bargaining table and scheduling new sessions.

On Monday, negotiators met until about 5 p.m. That's been the case since the DGA talks began, though smaller group discussions have progressed into the evening on occasion.

Over at the WGA -- which Tuesday marks the 72nd day of its work stoppage -- officials have been pursuing work agreements with individual companies. Spyglass Entertainment and Media Rights Capital on Monday became the latest production entities to announce interim deals with the guild, following previous pacts with Worldwide Pants, United Artists and the Weinstein Co.

But with the writers' industrywide negotiations still at an impasse, Wall Street remains nervous about the effect of labor strife on conglomerate operations. Standard & Poor's media and entertainment equity analyst Tuna Amobi said Monday that he expects disruptions in the TV pilot season and the advertising upfront market will hurt broadcasters and perhaps help cable networks.

"With more reruns and reality fare, ratings should take a hit, and the networks face sizable make-goods for audience deficiency units," Amobi wrote in a research note. "Film releases could be disrupted minimally, (and) we count cable networks and Internet among the key beneficiaries."

The S&P analyst predicted writers eventually will be forced to accept deal terms similar to those contained in any DGA agreement.