SAG backs off on DVDs

Relaxes some demands as talks continue with AMPTP

SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers will return once again to the bargaining table Monday for what will likely be two days of intense negotiations on the actors' contract, which expires June 30.

Although SAG has scaled back some of its demands, including its initial proposal to increase DVD/home video residuals, both sides still remain apart on several issues, including new media.

Friday was to have brought about a temporary halt to the talks, which began April 15, between the union and the producers, with SAG's sister union AFTRA waiting in the wings to start its formal talks on the primetime/TV contract Monday.

But Friday, SAG and the AMPTP announced that they had agreed to continue their formal talks through Tuesday. AFTRA has agreed to start up its talks on Wednesday.

While some have tied the extension to SAG's decision to scale back demands on DVD residuals, sources say that was not the core reason to continue talks and that both sides just wanted to "keep the talks alive."

Still, the extension offers a glimmer of hope for the negotiations, which seemed to have taken a turn for the worse on Wednesday when the AMPTP sent its members a six-page missive indicating there was little both sides have agreed upon.

The studios have so far held the line with other unions in terms of not changing the 22-year-old DVD/home video model. SAG's national executive director and chief negotiator Doug Allen and president Alan Rosenberg have been outspoken about their desire to make gains on the DVD formula. Both have been adamant that they won't follow in the steps of the WGA, which took the issue off the bargaining table in order to move forward in the talks.

The AMPTP has rejected SAG's demand to double the DVD residuals, which it estimated would cost producers $500 million. The producers also took issue with proposed wage hikes they claim could increase as much as 200%.

SAG is now seeking a 15% increase in DVD pay, an indication that Allen and Rosenberg are not giving up just yet. Given the studios past position on increasing the model, however, it's unlikely the AMPTP will budge now, one source close to the negotiations said.

SAG also scaled back its demands for increases in extra and guest star pay.

"That's still on the table," one source said. "There's still not a whole lot that's off the table."

SAG and the AMPTP also are hashing out dozens of changes by the actors union to the new-media formulas already approved by the WGA and AFTRA's Network Code.