WGA Strike Graphic: Deal!

E! Networks/Comcast Entertainment Group

Finally...some real and quantifiable progress in the writers' strike.

Though it's not over till it's over and someone signs on the bottom line, news has broken this morning that the Writers Guild of America has reached a tentative agreement with the producers. (Get all the details in our news story.)

All together now: Yeeeeeee....? (That's cautious optimism.)

The proposed pact will be presented later today to the more than 100,000 WGA members at separate meetings on both coasts (at the Crowne Plaza in Manhattan and the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles). If it is well received, the leaders of the WGA will meet Sunday to finalize the documents, and, well, writers could be back to work in as little as 48 hours.

WGA leaders spent much of yesterday going over the legal language of the proposal, and early this morning, WGA bosses Patric Verrone and Michael Winship sent out a message that emphasized gains in the most hotly contested area, new media:

It is an agreement that protects a future in which the Internet becomes the primary means of both content creation and delivery. It creates formulas for revenue-based residuals in new media, provides access to deals and financial data to help us evaluate and enforce those formulas and establishes the principle that, "When they get paid, we get paid."

According to insiders, the proposed deal does not match the Internet-download formula the WGA had hoped for. However, it does allow for some gains—namely, double the residual payments they were receiving under the old home-video formula. This is the exact same equation that was agreed to by the Directors Guild of America.

Some WGA members have openly criticized the DGA deal, saying it is not sufficient to meet the writers' needs. "Double of nothing is still nothing," one screenwriter close to the negotiations said this morning. "We were hoping for more. So, it is disappointing."

Another point of contention has been the length of time a network can stream a full episode  on its website. Many WGA members were hoping for a shorter time frame than what the DGA agreed to (24 days), but the proposed pact mirrors the DGA's.

Still, many other writers seem ready to come to terms with the gains that have been achieved and put the picket signs behind them. "I don't think any of us [writers] think this deal is ideal," says one TV writer. "But I think there's also a feeling that we fought the fight well and we should be content with the advances that were made."

Verrone and Winship seem to agree. In their letter to writers, they say: “We believe that continuing to strike now will not bring sufficient gains to outweigh the potential risks and that the time has come to accept this contract and settle the strike. Much has been achieved, and while this agreement is neither perfect nor perhaps all that we deserve for the countless hours of hard work and sacrifice, our strike has been a success.”

If the tentative deal is signed off on tomorrow by the WGA leaders, a portion of this TV season will survive (for some series), and pilot season might also be salvaged.

Stay tuned...

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