(Keep refreshing for the latest…) I was told last night by a top Hollywood CEO that the moguls had decided to allow AMPTP to put on the negotiating table a sweetened deal at Talks Day #4 today. “The producers are trying to put something on the table tomorrow [Thursday] that will jaw this loose. It will include streaming and EST [electronic sell-through] and all the rest,” the source said specifically.

The problem is I can’t confirm yet that the AMPTP has indeed bettered its offer today. (For a full report on the talks so far see my Day #3, Day#2, and Day #1.) But this is the sweetened proposal everyone has been talking about since before this new round of talks resumed. The really key issue is a better formula for ESTs, something that back on Sunday November 4th, the WGA negotiators had been led to believe was coming during that session so they dropped their DVD residual demands. Only to put them back on the table when the ESTs proposal never happened.

Until now, “the producers have not moved one inch on ESTs. It’s never been addressed,” the mogul I talked to confirmed last night.

hollywoodmoguls.jpgOn the TV issue of streaming, I’m told that the moguls’ initial 9-month waiting period will be shrunk to 6 weeks. True, that’s not the 3 days that the WGA is seeking, but it smacks of a compromise. (At least it’s not entirely the “when we stop making money we’ll give you money” thinking that’s been driving the WGA so nuts.) Now, some WGA toppers are telling me this is exactly what the moguls were proposing back on November 4th. But others say the streaming proposal that Sunday was so un-fleshed out that they didn’t know what the window being offered was. I do know that at the time I was reporting those tick-tock negotiations, the AMPTP side told me their streaming proposal was for the first season of a TV series to be free, and then at the start of the second season the writers would start receiving residuals for the first season, etc. Six weeks sounds a lot better than that.

But the CEOs are still standing firm on the issue of not sharing ad revenue with the writers even though those streaming shows are embedded with commmercials because “we don’t even give that to Dick Wolf on broadcast.”

I’ve gotta say, if this sweetened offer doesn’t materialize today… (Expletive deleted.)

I’ve been trying to get a handle these past few days on what the moguls are thinking while the strike and these talks continue. Not just the obvious force majeure issues, the Directors Guild’s soon-to-happen negotiations, the inevitable difficulty of the Screen Actors Guild’s bargaining, down the line. But the thinking right now. Sure, there’s a lot of senseless spin out there (just read today’s The New York Times to see a ludicrous example of that). But in the end what only matters is what’s on the bargaining table.

As far as the ESTs issue, the light at the end of the tunnel may lie with Ken Ziffren. That’s right, the entertainment uberlawyer who helped solve the 1988 writers strike and is now representing the Directors Guild Of America in what will soon be their negotiations with the moguls. Ziffren is telling agents that he has “a solution to New Media” that includes the all-important ESTs but is still “working on it”. One of the fears is that, if Ziffren shares it with the WGA negotiators, and they reject it, then the whole initiative may implode. On the other hand, if the WGA side accepts it, then the problem could be solved.

  1. Talks Day #3 ‘Stalemated’
  2. Talks Day #2 Still Friendly But Unproductive; “Game Of Chicken”
  3. Talks Day #1 Productive; “Reasonableness Ruled The Day”
  4. Dare We Hope A Deal Has Been Struck…?
  5. Talks Restarted At Agent Bryan Lourd’s Home After Weeks Of Quiet Backchannel
  6. LET’S STRIKE A DEAL! Both Sides Agree To Go Back Into Talks