UPDATE: Now even some top studio execs are telling me this is a ridiculously premature announcement.

Talk about a conveniently timed announcement intended to undermine SAG’s federal mediator-ordered formal talks with the AMPTP tomorrow. It’s also conveniently timed to undercut the WGA’s news today that it’s going after Big Media for reneging on making those New Media payments contained in the new contract. But labor sources tell me they suspect this is a phoney baloney announcement because there’s not even any revelation of terms in the news release. Supposedly, the AMPTP-IATSE tentative contract is actually nowhere near in shape to present to IATSE members after only a reputed 9 negotiating sessions. (Wait, didn’t ol’ Tom Short start the bargaining ages ago only to stop the talks and step down as IATSE prez. Do those sessions count, too?) Yet the Hollywood CEOs’ negotiating clique was desperate to make an announcement, any announcement, today to put pressure on SAG to further marginalize the big actors union, and to take pressure off itself for months of stalling. Here’s the announcement:

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 19 — The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts (IATSE) and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) tentatively agreed today to the terms of a new three-year IATSE contract. Terms apply to about 35,000 IA members represented by the West Coast studio Locals and New York-based Locals 52 and 161.

“This was a tough negotiation during tough economic times but both sides worked hard and negotiated reasonably to come to this agreement,” IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb said.  “This new agreement both protects members and allows new media to evolve.”

In response to the agreement, AMPTP issued the following statement: “The AMPTP is pleased to announce its sixth major labor agreement of 2008, this time with IATSE.  The IATSE-AMPTP agreement is consistent with the five other major agreements AMPTP has already negotiated this year, and it includes meaningful economic gains and groundbreaking new media rights.  Taken together, these six new labor agreements will keep our industry at work, allow producers to experiment with new media, and give everyone in our industry a stake in the success of new and emerging markets.”

Terms and conditions of the tentative agreement are in line with industry standards as established by other labor negotiations in 2008, and with applicable modifications for the particular needs of IATSE members.  The IA received the unanimous support of the negotiating committee to recommend ratification of the tentative agreement by the membership.

The IATSE is an International Union that represents members employed in the stagecraft, motion picture and television production, and trade shows industries throughout the United States, its Territories, and Canada.