Hollywood Studios, Union Agree on Three-Year Contract

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Hollywood studios have tentatively agreed on a three-year contract, both sides announced Wednesday.

The deal establishes fees for content streamed and downloaded over the Internet and preserves actors' right of consent on the use of their voices and images in online clips, the union said.

The agreement over a handful of prime-time TV shows such as "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Rules of Engagement" will last through June 2011 if it is approved by AFTRA's national board and ratified by members.

It will be submitted to the board at a meeting June 6-7 in Los Angeles.

The deal reduces the chance of an actors strike. The larger and more combative of the two actors unions, the 120,000-member Screen Actors Guild, is set to resume its stalled talks with the studios Wednesday.

"This was a tough negotiation," Roberta Reardon, president of the 70,000-member AFTRA union, said in a statement. "We focused on creating a framework that would allow union members to participate fully in the emerging new media marketplace."

The producers, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, hailed the deal and said it looked forward to negotiating with SAG "and to reaching an agreement that will prevent another harmful and unnecessary strike."

Actors, still recovering from the 100-day writers strike that ended in February, had largely wanted to avoid another work stoppage.

AFTRA's deal came after the second late night session in a row since bargaining began May 7.

The two unions had agreed to the same starting proposals but took different tacks with the studios, the first time they had negotiated separately in 27 years. It led to the separate, leapfrog schedule of talks.

SAG, which also has jurisdiction over work on major studio film productions, began negotiations talks April 15.

Both unions' current contracts are set to expire June 30.

The possibility of a strike had sent some film producers rushing to finish shooting or to delay projects for fear they would be shut down before filming was complete.

In a message to its members Tuesday night, SAG said it would continue to seek an increase in residual payments for appearances in DVDs, something neither AFTRA, directors or writers were able to secure.

It also sought to give actors a voice when asked to pitch products within scripted TV shows and movies.

Jonathan Handel, an entertainment lawyer who formerly represented the writers' guild, said he expected SAG to resist pressure to sign a deal similar to the one cut by its smaller counterpart.

"This is not going to be another two days of negotiations and we're done," he said. "This is still a long process."