Studios: Maybe we don’t need SAG


With contract talks stalled and a strike vote looming, major TV studios are looking at bypassing the Screen Actors Guild to shoot pilots for new series under their AFTRA contracts. News Corporation’s 20th TV has already shot two pilots that way and Warner Bros. says it is also exploring that option.

Under AFL-CIO rules, AFTRA can’t accept jurisdiction over shows previously covered by the SAG contract. But that leaves the studios with an open option for new series. 20th TV went public with a statement that it is “considering shooting its spring pilots” under AFTRA and avoiding SAG whenever possible.

Indeed, 20th TV has already shot two mid-season pilots, “Boldly Going Nowhere” for Fox and “Better Off Ted” for ABC under its AFTRA talent contract.

Warner Bros. also went public with a statement that it is considering its options “in response to the uncertainties created by a potential SAG strike” and may focus on productions under its AFTRA contract. Other studios are keeping mum, but have quietly been shifting toward producing new shows under AFTRA.

Certainly the 20th TV and Warner Bros. statements are intended as saber rattling by the studios ahead of the SAG strike authorization vote set for next month. But the shift toward AFTRA production is also a practical matter for the studios, given the lack of clarity about what is going to happen with SAG.

RBR/TVBR observation: This has turned into a bad soap opera. How are the studios supposed to deal with a split and dysfunctional union? Alec Baldwin was correct in telling the Los Angeles Times as he left a contentious union meeting in New York that the current SAG leadership should resign because “they have failed as negotiators.”