SAG/AMPTP TALKS COLLAPSE

Talks between the Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers collapsed again Wednesday -- this time over an unexpected deal point : the length of the deal. As reported by Daily Variety, the union insisted that the deal had to expire on June 30, 2011 -- just two years and three months from now. The AMPTP insisted on three years -- the same length as their deals with the other Hollywood unions -- a move that would block SAG from threatening a joint strike with the WGA and/or AFTRA when their contracts expire. "The terms in the offer are the best we can offer or will offer in light of the other five major labor industry deals negotiated over the past year and the extraordinary economic crisis gripping the world economy," the AMPTP said in a statement. It added that it would withdraw its latest offer in 60 days if the union continued to balk. Many analysts agreed that the new offer did not represent a significant improvement over the previous one.

TV PILOTS PRODUCERS CHOOSE AFTRA OVER SAG

Although primetime scripted television shows have generally been produced under contracts with the Screen Actors Guild rather than the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, that situation is likely to change in the near future, the Hollywood Reporter indicated today (Friday). The trade publication reported that in order to insure against a possible SAG strike, at least 50 of the 70 or so broadcast pilots for the winter season are being produced under AFTRA jurisdiction. A side effect has been a boost for digital production, since AFTRA productions cannot be shot on film. THR observed that the television production units of Sony and 20th Century Fox are shooting all their pilots this year under AFTRA agreements. Meanwhile, entertainment attorney Jonathan Handel blamed the Membership First faction of SAG for the current situation. "MF held out for the best deal imaginable," he wrote on his blog, "in the process ignoring the fact that negotiation is about obtaining the best deal achievable." But Nikki Finke, who runs the Deadline Hollywood Today blog and has strongly supported Membership First, lashed out at the union's moderate faction, who now control the board. "Going into a real negotiation with employers, experienced union leaders know that claiming from the outset to be 'moderate' is a strategic error that gets members less than zero," she wrote.

CUT-PRICE OSCARS

Because of the current flight of advertisers from television, ABC has been forced to cut the amount it charges for commercials on Sunday night's Oscar telecast by as much as 20 percent, published reports said today (Friday). The New York Times cited industry estimates of $1.4-1.7 million per 30-second spot versus an average of $1.8 million a year ago. It noted that several traditional sponsors of the Oscars have pulled out of the telecast altogether, including General Motors, L'Oréal and the Bertolli food line and that several other brands are running spots in the shows before the ceremony. (For the first time, the motion picture academy is also allowing movie studios to run ads during the show.) However, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Claremont Graduate University marketing professor Peter Drucker, a former president of Columbia Pictures, said, "It's more than just the economy. ... The academy has a problem here. The show is way too long, and the films this year are not spectacular. ... If this year's ratings are down, it could be the tipping point and they will have to make changes."

ABC SHELLS OUT FOR INTERVIEW, DOESN'T GET IT

ABC News paid between $249 and $739 a night for a three-night hotel stay at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes in Orlando for the grandparents of Caylee Anthony, the murdered child whose body was found around the time of the hotel stay, the Orlando Sentinel reported Thursday. Raising new questions about "checkbook journalism," the newspaper disclosed that ABC News producer Kaitlyn Folmer also arranged rooms at the hotel for Michele Bart, a spokeswoman at the time for the Anthonys, and two of their investigators. In the end, however, the grandparents declined an interview with ABC News.