Media Money with Julia Boorstin

The Writers' Strike is Almost Over!

Yes, it's true, after nearly four months and seemingly endless picket lines, the writers and the producers are close to a deal.

After the Directors Guild renegotiated its contract, the Writers Guild leadership sat down with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) -- and this time, Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Bob Iger and Peter Chernin at News Corp.'s Fox were leading those negotiations.

Some blogs are reporting that Chernin showed up at the Super Bowl -- broadcast by Fox -- and told people "the strike is over."

It's not quite over yet, but in two weeks they've managed to tackle what's been a sticking point -- payment for free, ad-supported streaming of movies and TV shows over the internet.

The two sides still need to agree on specific language of key provisions, and they still need to determine what qualifies as Internet "promotion" -- namely, how much can networks run video clips on their Web sites before paying writers?

But they've made a lot of progress, both sides have made a number of compromises, and we're getting close.

The agreement is largely modeled on the Directors Guild's renegotiated contract, doubling residual payments for films and TV shows sold online and giving union jurisdiction for shows created for the Internet, and establishing a payment system for the ad-supported streaming of shows.

The writers made a big concession in dropping their demands to unionize animated movies and reality TV. The studios' big concessions were better payments for streaming than what they gave the directors, and a provision for shows created for the Web that guarantees writers that they'd get paid extra if their project sparks a TV pilot.

It's no surprise that progress is being made -- the heat is on. The Oscars are now less than three weeks away. If the strike wraps up this week, as is hoped, ABC (owned by Disney) will be able to air the telecast and collect its nearly $80 million in ad revenue -- and movie folks on both sides of the labor conflict will be able to march the red carpet and collect their gold statues.

And then there's the TV business, which has been slammed far more than the film industry. If writers can get back to work soon, the networks will be able to rush forward with pilots to get their shows on TV this fall without delay. I still think the upfront ad sales period will be changed by this strike, but now the whole fall TV season won't be disrupted.

Now the real crunch time starts. Check back often for updates!


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