I went on a negotiating course once, you know

So, here we are again. The AMPTP has thrown the toys out of the pram, and my cautious optimism has come to naught.

Let’s delve a little deeper.

Datestamp: 6th December 2007
Nikki Finke reports rumours that the AMPTP has no intention of making a deal, and is planning to storm out of the talks

Datestamp: 7th December 2007 (morning)
The WGA issues a statement saying they’ve heard the rumours, and intend to stay at the bargaining table no matter what.

Datestamp: 7th December 2007 (afternoon)
The AMPTP presents an ultimatum – withdraw the following items from the bargaining table immediately, or we’re walking away. The items in question are:

  • Allow a third party other than the studio to determine fair market value for a property.
  • Allow WGA to represent writers/storyliners/editors (call them what you will) for reality TV shows
  • Allow WGA to represent animators
  • Allow WGA to refuse to cross picket lines of other striking professionals (eg Actors, Directors)
  • Revenue to be dependent on overall gross

Datestamp: 7th December 2007 6:05pm
The AMPTP walks away, refusing to negotiate further.

Now, as far as the WGA are concerned, these five items are still on the table. Still negotiable.

And, as previously discussed, the reason the WGA is on strike is Internet Residuals. All of the above points are potentially sacrificable for movement on Internet Residuals.

To the title of this post.

I was on a negotiating course once, you know. And what you do in a situation like this, is you list the things you care about, and you trade them off.

So if the AMPTP finds these five negotiable items so terrible that they must be taken off the table, there’s a very simple solution: trade them for some movement on Internet Residuals. Boy, doesn’t have to be much. Just show willing.

Demanding that a bunch of items have to come off with no trade or you walk, is not a negotiation.

The companies are currently claiming that the proposals that they are offering right now will cost $130 million. (The source implies each year, as it then goes on to mention current yearly spend. But let’s assume, more reasonably, that this is over the lifetime of the next three-year contract.)

Unfortunately, the AMPTP has declined to show their workings for this figure. However, the WGA has done the workings for the cost of everything the WGA are asking for right now.

It comes to (drumroll): $151 million over three years.

(The WGA helpfully even breaks down how much each company would have to pay.)

And this is our starting point for negotiations.

So.

If the AMPTP are serious, we should be at the negotiating table right now, yes? We’ve established that the things they’ve walked out over are negotiable. We’ve established that the price difference is affordable. What conclusions can we draw from this?

Well, sadly, there’s only one conclusion, and that is that the AMPTP is not interested in resolving these issues and having the writers return to work. They’ve attempted to pin the blame on the negotiating committee, but that has failed.

The bigger question is this: Why don’t they want to settle?

Well, at this point I have to introduce a new concept into the discussion: force majeure.

The studios have a lot of high-money contracts with various producers. By way of an example, let’s look at a deal that’s already expired, that with Cruise/Wagner, Tom Cruise’s production company. Paramount were paying Cruise/Wagner 10 million dollars a year in exchange for a first look at anything they produced. (It should be noted that this deal was not extended – so, actually, that’s made up the difference between the two proposals right there.)

There are a lot of these Producers with Overall Deals (or PODs). They cost a lot of money. And this pilot season has not been a good one.

Meaning a lot of money is going out for no good result.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could, I don’t know, slim the number of PODs down somewhat?

Well, turns out they all have force majeure clauses in their contracts. So if they weren’t able to develop shows (for example if there was a writers’ strike) for, say, two or three months – they could all be fired. Potentially freeing up a lot more profit.

What’s that you say? We knew this was a possibility back in November?

Well. Yes. I suppose there’s always a possibility that we’re dealing with scumsucking lowlife pondscum who’d screw over anyone that got in their way of a quick buck, instead of a human being.

But, you know, I like to think the best of people until they prove me wrong.

Unfortunately, this last AMPTP manoeuvre would, indeed, seem to prove me wrong.

New prediction: the strike lasts until February, at which point producers – real producers – will start getting fired.

What’s the betting the AMPTP then attempts to blame that on the writers?

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