AFTRA, AMPTP speak out on the deal

Here is my rough and ready summary of the radio interview with my comments in italics.

First, the president of AFTRA, Roberta Reardon, explains the agreement on clip use. 

She states that the existing “traditional consent mechanism” remains in place for the library product but that a new expedited consent mechanism will be the subject of a second round of negotiations within 90 days after ratification of the new agreement. Those negotiations are to be conducted on the basis that consent will be required however it is possible that the form of consent will be different. Going forward consent will be built into employment agreements so that consent can be part of employment negotiations.

The interviewer asked: how do you give negotiate over consent in advance when you do not know the value of the eventual product? and you may not have great leverage? how will actors know the value of giving consent?
Reardon responded that for new media (where the new mechanism will apply), none of us knows the value. She pointed out that the new deal sunsets in three years and that therefore these issues can be revisited then. She repeated the widely held view that it is not clear that clip use for new media is a viable business model.
My take on what happened here is that the producers picked an issue – clip use – that was not really on the table in advance of the negotiations. This is a very old tactic – surprise is a great weapon in any negotiations. Reardon admitted here that the issue was not one they had foreseen. And SAG/MF took the issue and is using it  in its battle with AFTRA. Is there a business model in clip use? Maybe. How big is it? Probably not that big but it got the two sides tied up on an issue that likely will be non-existent in a few years as technology moves on. Bottom line, I suspect the industry wants to see the two unions continue at war and they are using this as a “wedge” issue, much like abortion or gay marriage is used in the wider political arena. 
Unfortunately, on DVD residuals Reardon stated there was “no give” on that formula with the industry, it was “a non-starter.” She argued that is therefore more important to focus on the future as DVDs are probably less and less a part of the market.  
Of course, that is a very debatable issue. My own view is that actors will lose a lot more money from DVD sales in the next three years than they will gain from the new media pattern on the table.  Sadly, the SAG/MF decision to go after AFTRA instead of putting in place a serious strategy to win on the DVD issue is now coming home to roost.
Interestingly the AMPTP sent a representative to the same radio show and he argued that the DVD market “has slowed if not contracted and so now is not the time to add costs since it helps generate revenues for the companies and so we should focus on the new media and the future.”  
This is a very interesting formulation – on the one hand, he is saying please don’t touch DVD’s since we are making less and less yet at the same time he confirms that the DVD market is a cash cow for the industry.  And, of course, to increase residuals flowing to talent DOES NOT ADD  to costs if the shares taken by the Studios are reduced to a reasonable level!

89.3 KPCC | AirTalk hosted by Larry Mantle