The studios have come to a deal with AFTRA, the “other” actors’ union (the less powerful one) for the terms of a three-year contract. The terms on online content are essentially the same as in the deals the studios made with the directors’ guild and the writers’ guild earlier this year. The studios’ strategy is also familiar: the idea is to break off talks with the more powerful union (WGA, SAG), turn their full attention to a deal with the union that’s more pliable (DGA, AFTRA) and then use that as the basis for a deal with the bigger union. And while a SAG strike has not necessarily been avoided, this deal certainly seems to make it less likely.
The thing about all this, of course, is that the terms of any deal on online content would pretty much be the same in any case, or at least very similar. (Things that AFTRA didn’t get are things that nobody’s likely to get this time around, like an increase in residuals for home video; it’s not that that issue is “off the table,” it’s just on the list of issues that the unions are willing to put aside for now to get the online stuff.) You have to wonder, as with a lot of negotiations, if the studios’ strategy is less about the actual terms and more about appearances: it just looks better if they’re the ones handing a deal to WGA/SAG, rather than being seen to accept a deal. It’s a cynical way to look at it, I know, but appearances mean a lot, especially in Hollywood.
For less cynical and motive-based analysis, Mark Evanier explains what this deal does and does not mean.