With the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers reaching an agreement on a new three-year contract late last night, the union this afternoon filled in its members on what actually is in the deal via an email (see below) from Negotiating Committee Co-Chairs Chip Johannessen and Billy Ray out of the “complicated and protracted” negotiations “The three-year deal features increases to our minimum compensation rates, increased contributions to our Pension Plan, minimums for subscription video-on-demand programs, increased residuals for ad-supported streaming, outsized increases in script minimums for one-hour basic cable writers, and a doubling of the theatrical script publication fee,” said the message to members.
Perhaps the biggest step forward in the new agreement is in the issue of options and exclusivity, a stickler for the WGA during these contract talks. Starting New Year’s Day 2015, writers who earn less than $200,000 per contract year will no longer have to be exclusive to a network or company except “during periods when the writer is being paid for his or her writing services” and “the Company may not hold a writer for more than 90 days under a negotiated option agreement without paying a holding fee of at least 1/3 of the MBA minimum for the writer’s services.” Additionally, Johannessen and Billy Ray say that the producers’ pre-talks request for $60 million in rollbacks from the health and pension plans, residuals and targeted screenplay minimums were “taken off the table.”
(UPDATE 7:17 PM - The studios and networks had something to say on the new deal as well, “The AMPTP is pleased to announce that it has reached a tentative agreement with the WGA more than a month prior to the expiration date of our collective bargaining agreement,” they said in a statement today. “The AMPTP wishes to thank the Guild and the members of its bargaining committee for their diligent pursuit of solutions to the difficult issues presented at the bargaining table. We hope to sustain that spirit of cooperation as we embark upon a new three year relationship.)
The two sides actually had most of this all worked out almost a month ago, as I reported on March 6, with only an agreement on the scribes’ must-address issue of options and exclusivity still unresolved. After a second two-week break, the return to the table on March 31 for two final days of talks was the last push to wrap everything up. Otherwise, while it took a bit longer to reach a deal than expected from the February 3 start of talks, the WGA’s new agreement with the studios and networks pretty much holds to the pattern bargaining plan and overall resembles the deal the DGA made in its negotiations late last year. The Negotiating Committee has now sent the tentative deal to the WGAW Board and WGAE Council for their rubber stamping before sending the agreement out to members for ratification. The current WGA contract expires on May 1.
Here’s the full WGA email:
To our colleagues,
Your Negotiating Committee is pleased to inform you that a tentative agreement on a new Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) has been reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Contract talks began on February 3rd and concluded last night.
The three-year deal features increases to our minimum compensation rates, increased contributions to our Pension Plan, minimums for subscription video-on-demand programs, increased residuals for ad-supported streaming, outsized increases in script minimums for one-hour basic cable writers, and a doubling of the theatrical script publication fee.
Importantly, we have now placed limits on the options and exclusivity requirements often imposed on episodic television writers. Our negotiations on these issues were complicated and protracted, but the Companies worked with us to find solutions. As a result, the endless unpaid holds that have become more and more commonplace in television have now been addressed in the MBA for the first time ever.
In addition, the AMPTP’s proposed multi-million dollar rollbacks in health and pension contributions, screenwriter minimums, and TV residuals were taken off the table and are not part of this agreement.
Your Negotiating Committee has voted to send the tentative agreement to the WGAW Board of Directors and WGAE Council for approval prior to member ratification.
Highlights of the tentative agreement include:
Annual minimum increases for most types of programs and residuals: 2.5% the first year and 3% in years two and three.
Outsized annual increases (5%/5%/5%) in script minimums for hour-long dramatic basic cable series after the first season.
A 0.5% increase in the contribution to the Pension Fund effective May 2, 2014.
Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD)
On SVOD platforms with more than 15 million subscribers (like Netflix), network primetime minimums will now apply to dramatic programming with budgets above $2 million for 30-minute programs; $3.7 million for one-hour programs; $4 million for 90- minute programs; and $4.5 million for two-hour programs. Basic cable rates will apply to programs below those budget breaks on those same platforms, or on SVOD platforms with less than 15 million subscribers as long as budgets are at least $1.3 million for half-hour programs; $2.5 million for one-hour programs; and $3 million for programs longer than one hour. This provision includes nearly the full complement of television separated rights.
Ad-Supported Streaming Residuals and Streaming Window Changes
The residual for ad-supported online streaming will increase to 4% of the applicable minimum for each six-month period during the first year of the contract, 4.5% for the second year, and 5% for the third year. For the first time, on-demand reuse of shows on a cable set-top box will be included as part of the streaming residual.
The free streaming window is reduced from 17 days (24 for new shows) to seven days for most programs after the first seven episodes of a series. Broadcast shows will be subject to an additional seven-day window for each rerun.
Theatrical Script Publication Fee
The theatrical script publication fee will double from $5,000 to $10,000.
Options and Exclusivity
Effective January 1, 2015, the MBA will place two important limits on the provisions a Company may negotiate in the personal services agreement of an episodic television writer who earns less than $200,000 per contract year: (1) th e agreement may not require that the writer be exclusive to the Company except during periods when the writer is being paid for his or her writing services; and (2) the Company may not hold a writer for more than 90 days under a negotiated option agreement without paying a holding fee of at least 1/3 of the MBA minimum for the writer’s services. If the Company chooses not to pay the holding fee, the Company must allow the writer to accept an offer of other series employment, or if the series has been renewed, it may exercise the option and put the writer back to work. OnJanuary 1, 2016 the threshold will increase by 5% to $210,000 per season.
Eligible members will have the opportunity to vote on ratification electronically and will receive materials explaining the agreement and voting instructions via e-mail. Paper voting materials and ballots will be available upon request.
Chip Johannessen and Billy Ra y
Co-Chairs, 2014 WGA Negotiating Committee
2014 Negotiating Committee
Chip Johannessen, Co-Chair
Billy Ray, Co-Chair
Alfredo Barrios, Jr.
David S. Goyer
Chris Keyser, WGAW President, ex-officio
Michael Winship, WGAE President, ex-officio
Howard A. Rodman, WGAW Vice President, ex-officio
Jeremy Pikser, WGAE Vice President, ex-officio
Carl Gottlieb, WGAW Secretary-Treasurer, ex-officio
Bob Schneider, WGAE Secretary-Treasurer, ex-officio