Writers Reach A Tentative Deal

Well, it looks like we’ll have Christmas after all.

An end to Hollywood’s long and bitter writers’ strike appeared close on Saturday, as union leaders representing 12,000 movie and television writers said they had reached a tentative three-year deal with production companies.

The agreement would let writers claim to have bettered a similar deal achieved last month between the production companies and the Directors Guild of America. In the third year of the Writers Guild deal, writers will be paid a percentage of the distributor’s revenue rather than the flat fee for Web-streamed television shows granted to the directors. The writers had insisted on this issue to ensure they not lose out on any new-media windfall the studios and networks may get from Web video. The producers yielded on this point “” and the directors did not push it “”arguing that Internet distribution is unlikely to become a significant business during the length of these contracts.

The tentative agreement became possible when the sides reached a handshake deal nine days ago on a crucial term under which writers would be paid a fixed residual amounting to about $1,300 for the right to stream a television program online. In the third year of their contract, the writers would achieve one of their major goals: payments amounting to 2 percent of the distributor’s revenue from such streams.

The percentage formula is viewed by many writers as protection against the possibility that traditional reruns “” which have paid them residuals amounting to tens of thousands of dollars per episode in the past “” will disappear because of Web streams in the near future.

Other major gains include a pay plan that pegs residuals for electronic downloads of movies and televisions shows at nearly double the rate paid historically for DVDs, and calculates the rate as a percentage of the distributor’s revenue, junking an old formula. [NYTimes.com]