Cable Writers Benefit from Settlement


Hollywood's writers and producers came to a contract agreement late Friday,
with the scribes negotiating improvements that will improve the fortunes of
those who create cable's hottest shows.

The pact, which must still be approved by a vote of the membership, includes
greater compensation to writers for material that is currently in the archives
but that may be sold in the future to viewers of video-on-demand. Writers of
that material will get 1.2 percent of the exhibitor's fee for any archived
material from 1971 or newer.

Made-for-pay top compensation -- which had been approximately $300,000 for
shows like Home Box Office's The Sopranos or Showtime Networks Inc.'s
Soul Food -- will now cost up to $4 million per year.

Writers on basic-cable series, such as Lifetime Television's Any Day
, will get a 20 percent increase (up $850,000), according to the Writer's
Guild of America.

The negotiators initially sought an 11 percent increase in compensation for
broadcast shows that are licensed to cable, such as ER. Further, they
hoped to get residuals for each reprise on cable. However, writers dropped that
demand, and compensation will remain at 2 percent.

Writers of Fox shows were the other big winners. Because of Fox's former
status as a 'weblet,' producers got a break on the cost of writers. Their
scribes got 11.6 percent less than their peers at the 'Big 3' networks. That
compensation will reach parity with the Big 3 over the next two years.

Overall, the writers negotiated a deal worth an estimated $41 million over
the next three years.

Next, negotiators will take on the demands of actors. Contracts with the
Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Actors
expire June 1.