- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 3, 2008

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A breakthrough in contract talks has been reached between Hollywood studios and striking writers that could lead to a tentative agreement as early as this week, a person close to the continuing negotiations said yesterday.

The two sides closed the gap Friday on the thorniest issues, those concerning compensation for projects distributed on the Internet, said the person, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

A second person familiar with the talks, also speaking on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to comment publicly, said that significant progress had been made and a deal might be announced within a week.

The anonymous sources did not provide specific details on the possible agreement. Major points of contention include how much and when writers are paid for projects delivered online after they’ve been broadcast on TV.

The studios have been insisting that programs be streamed online for a certain period, deemed promotional, during which writers would forgo residuals. When payment kicked in, the companies sought to limit it to a flat $1,200 fee, while the guild wanted a percentage of a distributor’s revenue.

The Writers Guild of America did not promptly reply to a request for comment. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the trade group representing the studios, declined to comment, citing a news blackout both sides agreed to during the talks.

Guild leaders have said they are fighting for a piece of the future, reflecting the widespread belief that Internet-delivered entertainment fare inevitably would claim an increasing and perhaps even dominant market share.

Although work remains to be done on elements of the agreement, prospects for a deal appeared solid, said sources close to the situation. The tentative agreement would have to be approved by a majority of guild members.

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