LOS ANGELES - Hollywood producers and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists said they reached a tentative three-year contract deal yesterday that puts more pressure on a larger actors union to do the same and avoid a crippling strike.
AFTRA said its deal establishes higher fees for downloaded content and residual payments for ad-supported streams and clips.
It also sets a deadline for developing a system for actors to consent to the online use of clips containing their images or voice.
"It's a victory for actors," said Roberta Reardon, president of the 70,000-member union. She said she hoped the agreement will serve as a model for the larger Screen Actors Guild, which resumed contract talks yesterday with studios. "Actors want to work. This town wants to work," Reardon said.
The current contracts of both actors unions expire June 30.
SAG represents 120,000 actors in movies, TV, and other media. The TV and radio federation represents, among others, actors, singers, announcers, and journalists. SAG and AFTRA share 44,000 dual members.
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.
The AFTRA deal, involving a handful of prime-time TV shows such as "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Rules of Engagement," came after 3 a.m. yesterday, the second-straight, late-night session since bargaining began May 7.
The agreement boosts minimum wages by 3.5 percent in the first year of the contract, 3 percent in the second, and 3.5 percent in the third.
It also sets a 90-day deadline after ratification to develop rules that would have actors consent to use of clips in a commercial market similar to iTunes, Reardon said. The formula would likely involve umbrella consent for an entire TV series.
The deal also kept the current formula for residual payments for appearances in DVDs - an area that SAG is trying to improve.
"It was very clear from the outset that they were not going to change the formula in any profound way," Reardon said of the studios. She thought it was more important to obtain concessions for actors in the fast-growing Internet space. "In five or 10 years, more people will be downloading movies and TV shows than buying DVDs."
The union also fell short of gaining concessions on the issue of actors' dialogue and action involved in product placement in scripted shows, which is seen by the industry as an increasingly important revenue stream as more people skip ads with digital video recorders.
The agreement will last through June 2011 if it is approved by AFTRA's board and then ratified by members.
SAG is negotiating on many of the same issues.
The possibility of a walkout by actors had sent some film producers rushing to finish shooting or to delay projects.
The alliance has said it was burdensome to gain consent from each actor for every online clip. It said it worked with AFTRA to "fairly and sensibly" create a new way to handle online content.
A dispute over recruitment of members led AFTRA and SAG to negotiate separately with the studios for the first time in 27 years.