Sunday, February 10, 2008

Where's the AMPTP? And Do We Care?

In a wonderful article, Variety summarizes the last few month of negotiation, and notes that "movement in the WGA talks began when Disney CEO Robert Iger and News Corp. prexy Peter Chernin got into the same room with Verrone, Young and Bowman" and engaged in informal talks rather than formal bargaining sessions.

In a separate Variety story, attorney Alan Wertheimer is quoted as saying "I hope that direct dialogue with the CEOs in the context of informal meetings can serve as a model for future bargaining."

All of which raises the question: are the AMPTP's lead negotiators relevant any more? (The AMPTP is the alliance that represents the studios jointly.) It seems that most of what they did was inflammatory (see the first Variety story above) and designed to derail talks, not get a deal done productively. Should they even play a role in the SAG negotiations? Or in the next round of talks three years from now?

Based on the evidence, I think not. Unless, that is, they change their style. There are rumors that the AMPTP head will retire soon - he's been on the job since the org was founded over 25 years ago - and perhaps his successor (who may be his current deputy) will adopt a different style of negotiating.

Of course, let's not be naive: the AMPTP execs report to - and do the bidding of - the media congloms. So, if those congloms want the AMPTP execs to be relevant and productive negotiating partners in the future, they'll have to issue new marching orders.

This article also appears on the Huffington Post.

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