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Actors Not Likely to Disregard DVD in Contract

3 Apr, 2008 By: Erik Gruenwedel

DVD residuals apparently won't take a back seat in contract negotiations between the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP), slated to begin April 15.

The contract between AMPTP, SAG and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) expires June 30.

After a falling out last month, AFTRA (which represents mostly day-time TV talent) said it will negotiate separately with AMPTP beginning April 28.

Packaged media residuals figured to play a prominent role in the recent writer's strike but then vanished from the bargaining table when producers offered fiscal terms on new media the Writers Guild of America deemed the “best deal in 30 years.”The DVD residual rate, which is nearly 25 years old and pays 3% for TV and 3.6% for movies of the producer's gross receipts, is more of a sore point among the SAG brass.

Indeed, unlike writers whose material is principally found in screenplays, actors feature prominently in both the main attraction and on DVD bonus material as value-added commentaries, behind-the-scenes footage and related content.

Initially considered by studios as peripheral in importance, budgets for bonus material have been curtailed in recent years as sales of DVDs peaked.

Initial contacts between SAG and producers reportedly found studios unwilling to consider any hike in DVD residuals.

Alan Rosenberg, president of SAG, remained unmoved. He told The Los Angeles Times he considered revenue from new media (Web and mobile phone) distribution “negligible” and temporary, compared to DVD.

“DVDs are still the biggest source of income for studios, and we've never improved upon the pathetically low residual formula,” Rosenberg said.

He and Doug Allen, SAG national executive director and chief negotiator, have said actors have different issues that are not addressed in the separate Directors Guild of America and WGA deals.

“Now that we have concluded our wages and working conditions process and the SAG national board has approved our proposal package, we look forward to productive negotiations,” Allen said in a statement.

Officially, SAG's proposal to producers hasn't been made public.

SAG spokesperson Pamela Greenwald declined further comment.

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