SAG strike seen as unlikely


That’s the view of Wachovia analyst Marci Ryvicker after talking with folks involved on all sides in Hollywood – but she doesn’t rule out a management lockout. If there is a work stoppage, Ryvicker sees movie making as being hardest hit, with television faring better.

The analyst cites a number of reasons why the Screen Actors Guild is unlikely to strike the Hollywood studios. The other unions already have deals, so SAG doesn’t have as much negotiating leverage. Some 44,000 SAG members are also AFTRA members and could, at least in theory, keep working under the AFTRA contract if SAG strikes. Also, there is dissention within SAG, so the 75% approval hurdle for a strike vote is pretty hard to clear.

While a flat-out strike is improbable, two scenarios are likely to occur should a new labor agreement not be reached by June 30th.  The first and most likely is a management lockout. This would have the same adverse impact as a strike given that production would halt. The second scenario is for SAG members to continue to work past June 30th without a contract. Although there is no formal work stoppage in this circumstance, uncertainty surrounding the actors’ fate would prevent companies from starting production.  Our contacts believe that negotiations between SAG and AMPTP [the negotiating group for the studios] will continue in earnest for the next month but that a contract is likely to be signed by the June 30th deadline.  In the meantime, there already seems to be a de facto lockout in the feature film industry as production has basically stopped,” Ryvicker told clients.

If there is a work stoppage, she says the movie studios will be hardest hit, since SAG has exclusive jurisdiction over actors there. Meanwhile, the networks have accelerated shooting schedules for the coming season and July and August are usually spent developing new scripts for television, not shooting episodes, Ryvicker noted.

Just as with the Writers Guild of America, the biggest negotiating battle focuses on new media use of TV/movie content.

“The most contentious issue between SAG and AMPTP is actors’ consent for reuse of movies and television shows in new media, esp. internet clips. Studios feel it is too burdensome to obtain the consent for every reuse and that such a requirement hampers the rollout of new media initiatives. SAG believes that it is the actors’ right to maintain full control of their image and/or voice in new media just as it is in traditional media. Other items on SAG’s agenda include increased DVD residuals, increased comp. for middle class actors and comp. for product integration,” Ryvicker said.

RBR/TVBR observation: Once again, Internet content is the big stumbling block. That led WGA to the long strike that cost writers far more than they gained from the final contract terms. Let’s hope the parties are more reasonable in the current negotiations.