Following Up the Writers’ Strike: The Back Channel

On the last day before the Writers Guild of America went on strike, two of the most powerful entertainment executives offered a deal through a back channel. If the WGA stopped demanding DVD residuals, the producers would improve the residual formula applied to Internet downloads of movies and TV shows, according to Nikke Finke’s closely-watched blog, Deadline Hollywood Daily. The WGA instructed its negotiators to take the DVD issue off the table, and waited for the producers’ negotiators to take the promised answering step.

It never happened. And the writers now feel the executives, News Corp. CEO Peter Chernin and CBS President Les Moonves, “deliberately duped” them, Finke reports.

As a spitting mad WGA leader put it to me today: “All I can say is, if someone calls me and says, “You do X, and I do Y” and that someone doesn’t do it, then I’ve been lied to and I’ve been played. It’s a complete betrayal. I just don’t know what the studios’ game is.”

Finke’s post tick-tocks the final day of negotiations until

Finally, a little before 9 PM Pacific time just before the strike was to start at 12:01 AM Eastern time, “the producers came back to us with an answer to our DVD. It was all very calculated,” a WGA leader told me. “They said, ‘We are not going to make any concessions on the Internet. We stand by our former position that you will get the DVD formula on digital downloads. And we would like to ask if you guys would suspend the strike starting at midnight in the East. Are the pickets starting?’ [The producers confirmed to me they didn’t move off their electronic sell-through position to answer the WGA’s taking DVDs off the tables Sunday. “There wasn’t enough time!” one of their insiders claimed to me.]

“We told them what we’d said right at the beginning of the day’s discussion — that we had to see progress for the strike not to start. They said, ‘Well, that’s it, we’re walking out. Goodbye and good luck.’ Our guys shouldn’t have been shocked but they were shocked. They weren’t ready for the game that was being played. We had made every effort, thinking that if the other side sees you’re serious… and we were shaken that the promise to us had been broken.”

Finke says the two sides are now farther apart than ever, with mutual mistrust so high it might take months for the bargaining to resume.

Finke’s site is the one to monitor for the most up-to-date coverage from the reporter reputed to have the best sources.

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One Comment on “Following Up the Writers’ Strike: The Back Channel”


  1. […] Nikke Finke, the showbiz industry blogger who has led coverage of this story since before the strike began — tripling her page views to 1 million per day, according to the NY Times — today claims “there appears to be a deal seemingly in place between both sides” according to “a very reliable source.” “It’s already done, basically,” the insider describes. That’s because of the weeks worth of groundwork by the Hollywood agents working the writers guild leadership on one side, and the studio and network moguls on the other. I was told not to expect an agreement this week. But my source thought it was possible that the strike could be settled before Christmas. […]


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