AMPTP splashes cold water on SAG

Studios say little progress made in talks so far

Any chance that SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers will ink a new contract by Friday is all but gone.

On Wednesday, the AMPTP sent out a six-page missive to its member companies "setting the record straight" on the state of the negotiations and indicating little progress has been made since negotiations started April 15.

"Although both parties have spent considerable time in the negotiating room, we are not yet close to an agreement," the AMPTP said.

The studio group outlined what it views as the chief reasons for the apparent breakdown, claiming that SAG suggested 70 changes to new-media terms accepted by the DGA, the WGA and AFTRA for its network code. Although SAG negotiators have tacitly acknowledged the framework of the other guilds' terms, their proposed changes "would go a long way toward making the framework itself unworkable," the AMPTP said.

The studio organization said SAG also has demanded management accept guild demands like doubling the existing residuals formula for DVD and wage hikes of up to 200% in exchange for working within the new-media template.

A source close to the SAG negotiations said the AMPTP proposed 36 changes of its own to the other guilds' new-media terms, but an AMPTP insider denied the claim.

"We wouldn't propose changes to our own framework," the management-group insider said.

A well-placed industry source said the AMPTP statement is a clear sign the talks have broken down.

"There is little faith that there's going to be no deal, and they're going to finish up and go to AFTRA," the industryite predicted.

Certainly, the AFTRA performers union appears ready to go with its own primetime TV talks, which are set to begin Monday.

AFTRA has dumped its 27-year tradition of negotiating jointly with SAG.

Earlier this year, AFTRA hammered out its network code agreement on daytime TV in just two weeks, and it's believed the union is poised to work just as quickly to secure a primetime deal. That would quickly move the focus back to SAG, whose execs would be watched for clues on guild strategy if it's unable to secure a new film and TV pact by the time the current SAG contract expires June 30.

AFTRA has had two board members observing the SAG-AMPTP negotiations, and SAG is similarly expected to have one or more observers at AFTRA's talks. Though the two performers unions have been squabbling over jurisdiction issues, it's worth noting that their respective negotiating committees met quietly on Friday to swap info and perspectives on the AMPTP negotiations.

On Wednesday, AFTRA said members ratified the network code agreement by a 93.35% approval rate. AFTRA also agreed to an 18-month extension to a contract covering non-broadcast performances for sales programs, educational and training videos and assorted promos.