Talks Day #7: AMPTP “Stalling Tactics”; Are The Moguls About To Quit The Talks?

EXCLUSIVE: I wish I had better news about the AMPTP-WGA contract negotiations, but I don’t. To sum up, they suck. I took extra time reporting tonight, and some very surprising developments came to light. For instance, Peter Chernin is privately telling Hollywood that the producers plan to quit the talks any day now. That they have no intention of coming back with another streaming proposal “until we are close”. And that they’ll only give a better electronic sell-through formula “at the last minute” when a contract with the writers is virtually signed.

These quiet remarks by the Fox/News Corp No. 2 are the complete opposite of what the AMPTP is telling the WGA around the bargaining table.

I’m told Thursday’s talks began at 10 AM, and both the WGA and AMPTP had a brief discussion about streaming,  made-for-web content pay and jurisdiction, and electronic sell-through. Then one of the negotiators from the network and studio CEOs’ side declared, “The DVD formula is good for you, and you should embrace it with open arms.”

The AMPTP then claimed it had “a proposal coming” supposedly based on the writers’ streaming counter-proposal from Tuesday and asked the WGA side to wait around. By 5 pm, it wasn’t done. Then the producers claimed they would work on the proposal at the hotel straight through midnight or later and give it to the WGA at Friday’s session.

But some of the WGA negotiators hung around the hotel and, to their surprise, watched the AMPTP contingent get in their cars at exactly 6 PM and individually drive off.

(This follows what happened on Wednesday when the AMPTP negotiators asked to break early to celebrate the first day of Chanukah — yet their official statement later claimed it had been the writers side who didn’t want to negotiate late into the evening…)

Chernin, CBS’ Les Moonves, and some of the other Hollywood moguls this week keep kvetching about how “frustrating” the AMPTP-WGA talks have become and how “pessimistic” they are about a quick resolution. The bigwigs have even concocted this fiction that they wanted to solve the strike in three intense days of negotiations before Christmas but now they see that’s impossible because of the level of mistrust and misunderstanding around the table. My sources tell me the CEOs seem to be looking for any excuse to blame WGA chief negotiator Dave Young specifically for “blowing it”.

But the truth is this: the Hollywood moguls have not delivered on their promises. And Chernin’s statements make clear they never had any intention of doing so right now. Days are passing, and the AMPTP still hasn’t come back with a counter/counter-offer to the WGA’s counter-offer to the AMPTP’s offer on streaming. Days are passing, and the AMPTP still hasn’t come back with the 2nd half of its New Media proposal presumably containing ESTs. Days are passing, and the AMPTP and WGA are still paralyzed on Internet issues, which is why they moved way down their list to the subject of Reality TV jurisdiction. Sure that angered the CEOs who own a network — and I think it was a giant mistake by the writers’ negotiating team to get off New Media and onto that. But it came up because of the AMPTP’s stalling tactics, and the two sides had to jawbone about something.

In conclusion, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, as soon as Friday, the AMPTP walks out of the talks with a news release in hand that it’s all the WGA’s fault.

And I now predict the CEOs will make a big public show of deciding to open talks with the Directors Guild right away and thus try to screw the striking writers. (That’s already begun — today’s Los Angeles Times virtually announces it in roundabout fashion by noting that 300 director-writers today begged their DGA to hold off…)

And I predict the AMPTP won’t return to negotiations with the writers until February at the earliest after declaring force majeure. Please, oh please, prove me wrong.

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