In a typically early settlement for the directors thrashed out months before their contracts are due to expire on Jun 30, the three-year agreement increases wages and residual bases for each year of the contract, grants the DGA jurisdiction over material made for the internet, essentially doubles the residuals for paid downloads and establishes residual rates for ad-supported streaming and use of online clips.
Representatives for the directors and AMPTP met months ago to establish a negotiation timetable. The DGA remained silent during the initial phase of the writers talks out of respect for their compadres; however the directors felt compelled to act when those talks broke down on Dec 7 and began their own official negotiations on Jan 2.
'Two words describe this agreement - groundbreaking and substantial,' Gil Cates, chair of the DGA's negotiations committee said yesterday [Jan 17]. 'The gains in this contract for directors and their teams are extraordinary - and there are no rollbacks of any kind.'
The WGA said it would scrutinise the agreement to see how it affected its negotiations and would decide whether or not to re-engage with the studios. Should they not do so it will look increasingly likely that the strike could endure until at least Jun 30, when the actors' contracts are up for renewal.
'For over a month, we have been urging the conglomerates to return to the table and bargain in good faith,' the WGA said in a statement.
'They have chosen to negotiate with the DGA instead. Now that those negotiations are completed, the AMPTP must return to the process of bargaining with the WGA. We hope that the DGA's tentative agreement will be a step forward in our effort to negotiate an agreement that is in the best interests of all writers.'
In more detail, the DGA agreement increases pay 3.5% for each year of the contract for all categories except directors of prime time network dramas and daytime serials, who will receive a 3% rise.
Residual bases will increase 3.5% each year of the contract except for prime time network repeats, which will see a 3% increase.
Directors get jurisdiction over all new media content derived from material already covered under contracts, which includes all original material about $15,000/minute or $300,000/programme or $500,000/series, whichever is lowest.
Where paid downloads come into play, the deal increases the rate paid on features by 80% to 0.65 above 50,000 units downloaded. Below the 50,000 threshold the rate will be paid at the current rates of 0.30% until worldwide gross receipts reach $1m and 0.36% beyond that.
In another key deal point, payments for electronic sell-through will be based on distributors' grosses - the amount received by the studio or entity that distributes the material online - rather than producers' grosses.
Studios are granted a limited window to distribute clips of features online for promotional purposes. Payment will be provided for all other uses of clips in new media. Both parties can revisit new media when the agreement expires.
Meanwhile the WGA said it had struck a deal with Doug Liman's newly formed new media company Jackson Bites, which will create television-style programming for alternative distribution.
WGA members will be able to write, develop, and create programming for Jackson Bites for new media distribution, including the internet, set-top boxes, cell phones, and other wireless devices, and via direct deals with satellite networks and cable companies.