WGA has stream scheme

Scribes to propose pay rates tied to viewership

The WGA today will deliver a counterproposal to a recent offer from studio reps regarding pay for new-media streaming, with the guild proposing fixed compensation rates that also are graduated in increments tied to viewership rates.

"If the number of eyeballs go up, then our residual would go up," a source close to WGA negotiators said. "Our proposal tries to find a way of making things a little more flexible."

The movement of the WGA to embrace any sort of fixed-rate mechanism on streaming compensation is notable. Previously, the writers had been seeking a percentage of distributor grosses on streaming enterprises.

The WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers are set to meet at this morning at 10 in Los Angeles, starting the day with separate caucuses at a newly chosen undisclosed site. The parties met Monday through Thursday last week at an unspecified hotel, but negotiators wanted to move the talks again to another secret location.

The secret hijinks are aimed at eluding intense media scrutiny of the session, though a short-lived press blackout has been lifted. The optimistic prospect of the parties finally doing some real horse-trading at the bargaining table likely will only increase media interest in the proceedings.

Guild negotiators met during the weekend to hammer out a counter proposal to an offer the AMPTP advanced Thursday and which both parties calculate would result in writers accruing just $250 in added compensation when their TV content is reused in streaming enterprises. The management proposal arrives at its figure by assigning a fixed residual rate amounting to 1.2% of the current broadcast residual, a guild source said.

One well-placed source said the WGA's counter offer would provide streaming compensation roughly equal to the $20,000 a TV writer makes from the broadcast rerun of an hour of dramatic episode. But meager viewership would trigger "very, very low" writer payouts, much closer to the $250 figure suggested by the AMPTP's proposal, the labor insider said.

"It's not our intention to make (the streaming residual) so high that it's impossible for them to do business," a source close to the WGA team said.

The WGA is expected to present more than one new proposal at today's bargaining session, but the presentation will be dominated by its ideas for streaming compensation.

Eventually, the guild also is determined to get management to consider ways of increasing the current residual for Internet downloads. The writers are paid for such content reuse under the home video residual formula — which scribes hate even when applied to DVDs.

There had been speculation that the AMPTP would advance just such a proposal today, offering to sweeten downloads compensation in some way. But at least one top company exec said that will not happen, at least until after management hears from the guild on its streaming offer.

The WGA also intends to demand some sort of first-time jurisdictional guarantees on new media.

Today marks the 22nd day of negotiations since the WGA and AMPTP started contract talks July 16.