As expected, the Directors Guild of America Board today unanimously rubber-stamped the new three-year deal its negotiating committee finalized with the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers on Friday. With the board’s approval, the agreement now goes to the DGA’s 15,000 members for ratification to succeed the current Basic Agreement and the Freelance Live and Tape TV Agreement, which expire on June 30, 2014. No word yet on when that voting deadline will be but the DGA expect to announce a date just before the voting packages go out in the next week or so. The board meeting started around 9 AM today at the DGA HQ on Sunset and went into the early afternoon. The deal, which took just two and a half weeks to reach, sees wage increases of 2.5% the first year and 3% for the second and third years of the agreement. It also sees a 0.5% raise up to 16% overall to the Pension Plan, though the DGA can divert that increase to wages if it chooses. Residuals will also increase 2.5% the first year and go up 3% in the second and third years except for network primetime which will go up 2% for each year of the new deal. Taking just over three weeks last time, the DGA/AMPTP negotiations in 2010 for the current contract saw a 2% yearly wage and residual raise and a 1.5% rise in health and pension contributions to 15.5% overall – so not much of a change to the status quo this time.
Unlike the current contract, this agreement does however finally put in place some SVOD benchmarks for minimum wages, terms and conditions for high budgeted original and derivative dramatic new media productions. However, those new standards only come into play if the productions break certain minimum budget thresholds and other criteria. SVOD services with more that 15 million subscribers and “derivative dramatic new media productions above a second budget level” will now move into the network primetime rates and conditions level. Subscription video on demand or new media productions below that subscriber or second budget level will receive basic cable rates and conditions. Also in the new media realm, the new agreement also sees some changes to ad-supported steaming and cable AVOD residuals. “Payment for cable AVOD, will increase to 4% in the first year of the agreement, 4.5% in the second year of the agreement, and 5% in the third year of the agreement for programs exhibited for each 26-week period during the one year period following the free streaming window, says the DGA. Lastly, the deal contains a pledge by the TV studios to back a Television Director Development Program with emphasis on diversity.
Traditionally the first of the Guilds to enter into negotiations and wrap things up quickly and early to promote labor peace, the DGA started talks with AMPTP on November 4 this time round. Though everyone ended up their usual friendly selves in the end, the talks were a bit bumpy in the beginning, I’ve learned. “There was a lot of lecturing and frustration the first few days on both sides and then the last few days they got down to actually negotiating something,” a source close to the discussions told me. With the death of long time negotiations chair Gil Cates in late 2011, Thomas Schlamme and Michael Apted headed up talks for the DGA with long term Guild National Executive Director Jay Roth this year. AMPTP president Carol Lombardini fronted things for the studios.
With this contract agreement going out to DGA members, the other guilds are getting ready to follow to the table themselves with the producers. As usual, the first agreement out of the gate will serve as a template for both the WGA and the now merged SAG-AFTRA in their negotiations. The WGA announced its negotiating committee on November 13 with Captain Phillips scribe Billy Ray and Chip Johannessen as co-chairs and WGAW Exec Director and Chief Negotiator David Young. However, the WGA has not yet set a start date for talks. The Writers Guild master contract is up on May 1st. In its first contract with AMPTP since the 2012 merger, SAG-AFTRAis not expected to sit down with the Producers until early in the new year after holding a series of wages and working conditions meetings with members. SAG-AFTRA’s current contract expires on June 30, 2014, the same day as the DGA’s. “The real wild card in all this is that no matter what the DGA accepted and the WGA will accept may not solve problems that SAG-AFTRA have with their health and pension plans. This may be one of those years, especially with the SAG and AFTRA merger, where there really may not be the virtually identical issues to be addressed that we’ve seen in past years,” one insider said to me. We’ll see next.