Hollywood moves toward deal

February 4, 2008 6:32:47 PM PST
The striking Hollywood writers guild remained on track for a possible deal with studios, but specific language of a new contract was still to be resolved, two people familiar with the negotiations said Monday.

The Writers Guild of America bargaining committee and board of directors received updates on the status of informal talks with studio executives that began on Jan. 23, said the people, who were not authorized to publicly comment and requested anonymity.

The two sides made significant progress last week on the thorniest issues concerning compensation for projects distributed via the Internet, with a deal possible by the end of this week, one of the people has said.

Specific details on the negotiations were not disclosed.

Major points of contention in the three-month strike include how much and when writers are paid for projects delivered online after being broadcast on TV.

The informal talks began after the studios reached a tentative deal last month with the Directors Guild of America and several studio executives urged the writers to participate in similar talks.

The directors union made gains in residuals for some paid Internet downloads and for ad-supported streaming of programs.

The studios likely left financial room to sweeten those terms as part of a deal with writers, said Jonathan Handel, an entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles and a former associate counsel for the writers guild.

"Studio negotiators obviously were sophisticated and realized the writers guild leadership has to be able to bring some bacon home to seal the deal with members," Handel said.

The guild and the studios repeatedly have declined to comment on the talks, citing a news blackout.

The informal talks are essentially a substitute for the formal negotiations between the writers guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers that broke off on Dec. 7.

Last month, the guild offered an olive branch by agreeing not to picket Sunday's Grammy Awards.

However, the fate of the Feb. 24 Academy Awards remained in question, with the guild so far declining to grant writers permission to work on the industry showcase.

A union refusal to cooperate with the Golden Globes decimated the ceremony, which was boycotted by actors who supported the writers cause.

Oscar organizers and producers have vowed they will stage some type of show, with or without union support.