TV networks brace for potential actors strike

Thu Jun 19, 2008 3:58pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As Hollywood recovers from a tumultuous writers strike that ended in February, U.S. television networks are bracing for a possible actors walkout that could delay the upcoming fall TV season.

Jitters over renewed labor unrest have mounted in recent days as contract talks between the Screen Actors Guild and the major film and TV studios have grown increasingly rancorous with little or no sign that a settlement is near.

The three-year labor pact covering film and prime-time TV work for 120,000 SAG members is due to expire in two weeks.

SAG leaders triggered an outcry from the studios late last week by suggesting a deal was unlikely to be reached by the June 30 deadline and saying they were considering whether to seek permission of rank-and-file members to call a strike.

The talks, which began in April, have bogged down on some of the same issues that led to a work stoppage by screenwriters earlier this year, including payments earned by union talent from DVD sales and work created for the Internet.

The writers strike brought production on most scripted TV series to a halt, idled thousands of workers and forced networks to replace sidelined programs with a glut of reruns and reality shows. TV ratings already in a slump sagged further. One estimate put the total cost to the Los Angeles-area economy at $3 billion.

With so much at stake, studio and network bosses are said to be preparing strike contingencies.

The studios' bargaining agent, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, acknowledged last week that continued labor uncertainty has curtailed movie production and disrupted pilot development for new TV series.   Continued...

<p>Tourists pause on a walkway at a shopping mall which offers a view of the famed Hollywood sign at the hills in California March 14, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>