Directors Guild to Begin Formal Talks With Studios

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The 2020 negotiating cycle finally has its kickoff date set for Feb. 10, with WGA and SAG-AFTRA negotiations expected later in the spring.

The Directors Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers will begin formal negotiations on Feb. 10, the two organizations said Tuesday. That will come as a relief to the industry, even though the February start is about two months later than talks commenced in recent triennial bargaining cycles.

The reason for the delay, according to sources and observers, is that the above-the-line guilds are keenly focused on improving residuals for streaming platforms as the entertainment industry pivots to a direct-to-consumer model placing broader reliance on subscription VOD platforms such as Disney+ in addition to incumbents such as Netflix; and, to a lesser extent, on ad-supported VOD such as the upcoming Peacock.

“The Directors Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers announced today that they have agreed to enter into formal contract negotiations for the 2020 Agreement on February 10, 2020,” the organizations said in a joint statement. “The DGA and the AMPTP have also agreed that neither organization will comment to the media.”

The reference to “formal” talks is telling. It’s known that the DGA has engaged in informal discussions with studio counterparts, as it usually does prior to formal bargaining.

The guild’s current master agreements with the AMPTP expires June 30. In key areas, particularly residuals, the deal the DGA reaches is likely to set a pattern for the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA, whose current contracts expire May 1 and June 30, respectively. However, a strike by one or both of those unions is also a possibility, leading studios already to some stockpiling of scripts and seeking of alternate sources.

“It is ludicrous to think that we’ve already decided to go on strike without negotiations even happening [yet],” WGA West president David Goodman said Saturday in a speech during the WGA Awards. He also said that it’s "dangerously naïve to think a strike is never necessary.”

Added Goodman, “We’re going into negotiations from a very strong position.”

But first come the DGA talks — and after a long wait, those formal talks are finally about to get underway.