Guilds lather up Web residuals

Pact with CBS for compensation for online episodes

In a deal more important for its positive vibe than its contract scope, the WGA and the DGA have struck compensation pacts for webisodes involving two CBS soap operas.

The pact, announced Thursday by the WGA, applies to nine webisodes being launched Feb. 22 as "L.A. Diaries." The Web series, to be streamed for free, revolves around a friendship between an existing character on "The Young & the Restless" and a new character set eventually to join the cast of "As the World Turns."

Terms of compensation involve both basic pay and some limited residuals for the writer, director and actors on the webisodes.

WGA senior executive Jane Nefeldt described the terms as being a modified form of the guild's basic-cable residual terms. Although those terms are more lucrative than the home video formula applied to some previous new-media projects, it has been crafted in a whole new way for the soap webisodes and grants residuals only in four-week intervals dependent on how long the series is streamed.

"It's of limited scope (but) we'll see how this works," Nefeldt said.

The WGA touted the compensation agreement as "a flexible framework for future online, mobile content and other new technology deals within the entertainment industry."

DGA spokesman Jesse Hiestand said he could only acknowledge that an agreement covering the director of the webisodes is in place.

"The DGA generally does not discuss the specifics of special agreements in the press," Hiestand said. "This is a DGA show and we have a satisfactory agreement with CBS that covers it."

Webisode cast members will be covered under terms of an existing AFTRA pact covering such new-media projects.

Meanwhile, the WGA and DGA pacts, though limited in scope to the CBS soap webisodes, might bode well for the more ambitious discussions management and guild execs will hold on new-media compensation once their next round of film and TV contract talks kicks in.

The WGA is expected to begin negotiations in July for its film and TV new contract, which expires Oct. 31. Similar movie and primetime pacts with the DGA and SAG expire in June 2008.

"It shows that even in a climate where there is a lot of tension right now, things can be worked out," mused one source close to the impending contract negotiations.

In another potential good omen, ACTRA recently inked an agreement with the Canadian Film and Television Producers Assn. giving Canadian actors a new-media residual amounting to 3.6% of gross distribution revenue -- roughly equating to the pay TV formula. But the Canadian agreement doesn't apply to the major studios, and U.S. labor leaders remain cautious when asked if they will succeed in securing adequate new-media terms from the next round of contract talks.

Late last year, the WGA urged writers on some NBC webisodes to refuse to cooperate with the projects unless granted fair compensation. The network responded with an unfair labor charge, but an administrative judge has recommended that the complaint be dismissed (HR 2/22).

The guilds' soap webisodes agreements were struck with CBS on behalf of "Y&R" producers Bell Dramatic Serial Co. and Sony, and "World" producer Procter & Gamble.

"It's a unique agreement for a unique set of circumstances that crosses shows, production companies and even mediums," CBS spokesman Chris Ender said. "We appreciate that the WGA as well as the DGA and the on-air talent involved joined with us to put together a unique programming and promotion event to support these daytime dramas."

WGA executive director David Young said: "We are pleased to have worked with CBS to develop a fair compensation model for this new-media platform. By coming together to reach this forward-looking agreement, we've helped ensure that the stories created by writers for this new medium will continue to maintain the creative integrity of original network programming."
comments powered by Disqus