10.20.2005 03:52 PM
Unions call for cut of video iPod pie

The headlines heralding the video iPod had barely faded last week when Hollywood’s labor unions had their say. In a show of unity, five unions representing actors, writers and directors issued a joint call for talks to make sure their members get a cut of the revenue generated by the sale of TV shows on Apple’s iTunes software.

Last week ABC announced that shows such as "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" will now be available to download for portable viewing on the new video iPod from Apple Computer, the Associated Press reported.

In doing the deal with Apple, ABC became the first network to allow viewers to download episodes of their shows the day after they air on TV. Other networks are expected to follow.

The development was news to Patric Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America, West, and John Connolly, president of the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists. The two called their counterparts at the Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America, East.

The unions have not yet called ABC or its parent, The Walt Disney Co., to discuss how much of the $1.99 that Apple is charging for a single episode would go to writers, actors and directors.

The groups already have agreements that cover the re-use of their work on the Internet or in pay-per-view models, such as video on demand. The unions also have newer agreements covering work produced for the Internet.

Under the WGA contract, the AP reported that writers are entitled to 1.6 percent of the license fee paid by networks to the producers of a show. ABC’s "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" TV shows are produced by Touchstone Studios. Actors are entitled to 3.6 percent of the license fee.

A conflict could arise if studios decide to treat the Internet downloads the same as a DVD sale, which might result in lower payments.

For more information about the new iPod deal, read New iPod represents competition for broadcasters.

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