Actors Unions Agree Deal to Protect Studio Cash Cow

As I had surmised was the case some months ago, SAG/AFTRA agreed this weekend to protect their employers’ multi-billion dollar cash cow, DVD revenue. Instead they opted for modest improvements in base salary and the pension and health care plans. But the studios no doubt breathed a sigh of relief as their multi-billion dollar cash cow was once again declared off limits from actors by their unions.

The deal comes seven months in advance of actual contract expiration and will likely be passed easily in light of recent victories for the moderate leadership slate now in control of the actors guild.

Now of course the major producers will have plenty of time to engineer their transition to the new media world with the cash actors have helped them protect for their executives and shareholders. Look for a slight pop up in stock prices for the parent companies next week.

The studios now clearly understand the Guild has no ability to, or serious interest in, confronting the dramatically changing technological and financial landscape of the 21st century entertainment industry.

As the Los Angeles Times noted SAG/AFTRA remains boxed in by more conservative unions such as the DGA:

“Both unions faced pressure to get a deal done before the Directors Guild of America started its negotiations. The DGA, which often is the first out of the gate on new contracts, has stated it intends to begin negotiations this month.”

This led to a major strategic choice: a narrow focus on health care and pension contributions as well as the adoption of a “low key” bargaining approach – which meant, of course, that creative job actions and a strike were off the table. The shift in tone was signaled by the selection of Guild staff leadership as the Times noted:

“Also boding for an early deal was new leadership at SAG, which is now controlled by a coalition of so-called moderates, won control the national board two years ago, fired former executive director Doug Allen and installed former general counsel David White in his place. White took a less confrontational approach in his dealings with the studios and adopted a low-key approach to the negotiations, avoiding public pronouncements about the unions’ demands.”

Of course if actors are in a less militant mood that fact owes a great deal to the mindless tactics of the prior leadership team led by the now defunct group, Membership First. SAG seems, sadly, caught in a see saw relationship that mimics our national political scene.

The Guild will now turn inward as it pushes ahead with merger with AFTRA. And in three years actors will realize they have once again left hundreds of millions on the table untouched by the working actor.

Hollywood Actors Reach Tentative Deal Early on New Contract – NYTimes.com.

5 thoughts on “Actors Unions Agree Deal to Protect Studio Cash Cow”

  1. If, within the first week, a movie doesn’t recoup a producer’s/studio’s initial investment at the box office, it goes directly to DVD. Producers/studios make back their investments from DVD’s; and, before DVD’s they recouped from Videotapes. And, today, in addition to DVD’s, there are so many other merchandising highways open to, profit-making, producers. Everybody KNOWS that DVD’s are a ‘gravy train’. That’s why producers/studios protect DVD’s just like Fort Knox. Everyone also knows that DVD’s are the ‘holy grail’ for Actors. Thus far, however, every CEO and NED has promised and failed to deliver an increase in DVD’s. Why? Because the mere mention of a SAV makes many Actors tremble with the fear of a work stoppage. And “Fear doth make cowards of us all.”

  2. 50+ W&W items left on the shelf again less the two items noted in the press .
    40% of those on the shelf items are attainable with a SAV and another round at the table with producers .If this is all they could do while in unison Merger will garner no more power than the will not demonstrated to do so.

  3. Not a peep about new media. “Improvements, important improvements…” according to the release, at the very end.

    If they were improvements of weight, they’d be trumpeted. Remember – the ENTIRE debate was new media in 2008 and, Steve severely criticizes the Rosenberg/Allen camp for… the WAY they warned about the fall-out if SAG didn’t confront it right off the bat?

    Look, Steve, bottom line? SAG had to strike then and will have to strike eventually to get a fair deal in new media, so, are you suggesting if Rosenberg and Allen were less… honest about what the new media deal meant and the kind of solidarity and toughness it would take to establish a fair precedent right off the bat, it would have worked out better? That’s absurd.

    The current administration is in cahoots with AFTRA and the AMPTP to create a producer-friendly union. THAT’S ALL THAT MATTERS.

    I’m hearing there will be some revelations coming that may compromise this administration of SAG and the AFTRA crew from operating with a free hand. Stuff to do with what you trivialized when it was brought to your attention Steve. Your information was uninformed, whomever you consulted, let’s leave it at that.

    Remember, “we’ll all come together in 2011?”

    What happened to that? Where is the DGA? The WGA? The Teamsters. IATSE?

    Look – either the ACTORS in this business take a good long hard look at how they will make LIVING in the 21st century and understand we are NOT headede in the right direction, but the WRONG direction, or we don’t.

    The producers are trying to re-set the “norm” for compensating actors. That’s what they are DOING.

    Actors MUST respond in kind and say “Here’s OUR new “norm.” And then be ready to have a major-ass throw down. it’s the difference between acting being a remotely viable profession for non-stars in the 21st century, and… not.

    You’re talking DVD revenue. Man you are behind the times. DVD is dropping, has been for a while.

    Was it WRONG to back off what the membership had SPECIFICALLY elected Rosenberg to do: “get tough on DVD” in ’08-’09? Of course it was. Who FORCED that on them? RICHARD MASUR AND THE MODERATES. I was AT the meeting where they were LITERALLY SCREAMING “TAKE DVD OFF THE TABLE!” at Rosenberg and Allen on the dais in NY.

    Should that be thrown into the package of what SAG will have to strike over to survive as a strong representative of union movie, tv, net actors in the 21st century, whether we merge into “Uncle Joe’s” or they (current SAG and AFTRA leadership) get caught being unethical, if not criminal before then and merger goes down the tubes?

    Of course, but new media is where the rubber meets the road, and it was almost an afterthought in the press release, when in fact, it’s the WHOLE BALL GAME.

    2% is 2%. Good, bad? Well, let’s put it this way – it’s not good.

    The P&H is kind of illusory though, isn’t it? “Non-confrontational, press blackout, blah, blah, blah,” if we’re to merge, with Ken Howard getting pissed off when asked about P&H at the last “President’s Union” (another one in the next days) and Ned Vaughn lapsing into incoherency when he attempted to throw in his 2 cents, what does anything about P&H really mean?

    I have NO DOUBT the producers went at the P&H thing as “this whole thing is up in the air, so, don’t agree to anything crazy, keep it in the ballpark, but, it’s all smoke and mirrors cause they’re merging.”

    Well, if we DON’T merge, half our P&H comes from TV – and TV now belongs to AFTRA. The market is ssssslowly trending upward, but you simply cannot recover from losing 40% of your P&H revenue (if we don’t merge).

    So, the bottom line is: if we merge, we have NO IDEA how the P&H thing will work, because they will get to a vote WITHOUT explaining anything because their rational is “you can’t explain anything on P&H until AFTER you merge.”

    Most likely, those vested in SAG and AFTRA get what’s coming to them (federal law) and there’s a third common program where non-vested people can transfer their credits, then go from there under the NEW P&H programs rules, which are TBD.

    I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess, if it gets there SOMEBODY is going to get screwed HUGE on P&H.

    If we DON’T merge, well, SAG is going to have to get TV back, period. P&H will continue uninterrupted and funding will start to flow from the recovery of TV.

    In the end though, it’s all about new media. It’s pretty stunning so little is made of it in the statement, totally non-specific, and in the reaction, it’s like “oh, yeah, new media,” when of course, new media is the key.

    Example. I did a top of show guest spot that was on Thursday, I fell asleep, missed it, a couple people told me they saw it, I figured, I bet I’ll find it in five minutes on the net. Wrong. Two. Two minutes, I was hooked into a feed on some web-site from CTV and there it was.

    Did we deal with that? Not in the least. Is that not BY FAR the biggest threat to actors, SAG, AFTRA or Uncle Joe’s?

    You bet it is.

  4. I hate to break it to you Tom but it was your New York leader Paul Christie who acquiesced in the veto of me for NED by Jolliffe/McCord after Alan and I reached a deal.

    That opened the door to Doug Allen who was waiting in the wings and we all know the disaster that followed. That disaster has made it nearly impossible for the guild to dig itself out of trouble now as this deal suggests.

    By the way that was back in 2006 – perhaps you should just get over it by now.

    And yes I do moderate comments and when there is nothing relevant to the discussion or just personal vitriol I reserve the right to edit comments.

  5. Jesus, Steve – I take back my “yes” vote for Steve Diamond for SAG NED. I won’t go into specifics concerning your obtuse comments on the deal (which no one has even seen yet, you included) because you’ll just edit them out the way you truncated my last post.

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