The 2017 Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA)
The following is a summary of the amendments that comprise the 2017 MBA. It is a simplified version of the longer Memorandum of Agreement; the language of the Memorandum of Agreement will prevail in the event of any inconsistency. Unless amended in the 2017 negotiations, the provisions of the 2014 MBA remain unchanged.
There will continue to be two MBAs: the 2017 WGA-Network MBA and the 2017 WGA-AMPTP MBA. The limited differences between the two agreements are in three areas, primarily affecting long-form television. Each company that signs a WGA letter of adherence will be required to choose between the two 2017 MBAs.
Summary of Amendments
Term of Agreement
Three year term – May 2, 2017 through May 1, 2020.
Minimums to increase by 2.0% in the first year and by 2.5% in each of the second and third years, compounded, with a few exceptions, including:
The network prime time/High Budget SVOD rate and the rate for daytime serials will increase 1% each year.
The network prime time residual base will not increase.
Excerpt payments will increase by 2.5% in the second year.
The “upset price” in Article 16.B.5. will increase by 1% in the second year.
Limitation on Span of Work for Writer-Producers Employed on Short Season Series and Additional Compensation for Work in Excess of Span
Writers at the producer level on TV staffs who are paid on an episodic fee basis will have a cap of 2.4 weeks of work per episode. For example, ten episodic fees pay for up to 24 weeks of work. Weeks in excess of that cap are paid at the writer’s individual weekly rate, computed by dividing the episodic fee by 2.4. These limits will apply to contracts entered into on or after May 2, 2018 and will apply to series with episode orders of 12 or fewer episodes on broadcast networks, and 14 or fewer episodes on cable and digital platforms. Additionally, these rules will apply only to writers guaranteed less than $350,000 in a year, excluding script fees.
Increased Health Plan Contributions
The health plan contribution rate on reportable earnings will increase from 9.5% to 10.5% at the start of the 2017 agreement; to 11.0% in the second year; and to 11.5% in the third year. In addition, the contribution base for writers on overall deals under Article 14.E.2 will increase from $250,000 to $275,000 per year for writers earning more than $250,000.
Options & Exclusivity
The Guild has extended the coverage of Article 67, which limits the circumstances under which companies may hold series television writers under option and require exclusivity. The eligibility threshold for coverage under the provision has been increased from $210,000 under the 2014 MBA to $275,000 for contracts entered into on or after May 2, 2018 ($280,500 starting May 2, 2019) for most programs, and to $250,000 and under for contracts entered into on or after May 2, 2018 for writers working on children’s programs.
Increased Residuals for Made-For-Pay TV
Residuals for made-for-pay television are increased 10% in the first year of the contract and 5% in the second year of the contract. In addition, writers on made-for-pay television comedy-variety programs, who were excluded from fixed residuals under prior MBAs, will now receive them.
Increased Residuals for Programs Made For High Budget Subscription Video On Demand (HBSVOD)
Domestic use of made-for-HBSVOD programs now triggers a residual after 90 days, rather than after one year. The base for the residual will be increased and the residual is increased 50% for the largest SVOD service. In addition, the contract establishes a new residual for affiliated foreign SVOD, such as the extensive use Netflix makes of most of its WGA-written original content. This residual starts at 35% of the domestic residual each year, and declines to 10% of the domestic residual by year 13 for each year thereafter of the life of the program.
Existing series and programs with license agreements that pre-date May 2, 2017 are grandfathered under the current provisions, even if the writing is done after May 2, 2017. If the company changes the deal terms of the license agreement, the 2017 HBSVOD terms apply.
Increased Residuals for Reuse on Ad-Supported Video On Demand (AVOD) Residual
The residual that compensates writers for AVOD on cable and the Internet is increased from 5.0% of the base to 5.5% for each 26-week exhibition period. Also, the base is increased.
Writers on term contracts in episodic television will be entitled to up to eight weeks of unpaid job-protected parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child, or the placement of a foster child.
Tri-Guild Audit Fund
Renew funding for Tri-Guild auditing of residuals payments at existing levels for the term of the agreement.
Showrunner Training Program
Increase funding for Showrunner Training Program to $250,000 per year.
License of Out of Production Television Series to Secondary Digital Channels and Basic Cable Services
The Guild extended the scope of provisions for sales to secondary digital broadcast services and second sales to basic cable channels. The current provisions, first negotiated in 2014, required that series be off the air for 18 months or more. Those waiting periods are now eliminated and a basic cable series can now be licensed back to its original channel with a gross-based residual. A new definition of “out of production” will ensure that the series is truly cancelled before the company can license the program in this manner.
Awards Show Reruns
When a live awards show is rerun immediately after the show but on the West Coast only, the residual will be one-third of the normal residual.
Reuse on Foreign Language Basic Cable Channels
The Guild agreed to allow television series made-for-basic cable to be released with dubbing on a domestic foreign language basic cable channel for 2% of the license fee rather than triggering a fixed residual.
Limited Theatrical Release of Television Programs
The Guild agreed to allow limited theatrical release of television and HBSVOD programs under a percentage of revenue residual rather than the current theatrical release payment, to encourage such release without undercutting payment for full releases.
Foreign Remakes of MOWs
The Guild added MOWs to previously-agreed terms for foreign remakes of television episodes.
Release of Liability for Reacquired Script
In the case where a writer reacquires a script, The Guild agreed that the original signatory will be released from any residual obligations.
Virtual Multi-Channel Video Program Distributors
The Guild agreed to a definition of “Virtual Multi-Channel Video Program Distributors” (vMVPDs). This provides that the new “skinny bundle” services such as Sling TV, PS Vue, YouTube TV and CBS All Access are treated as cable TV providers under the MBA. Some of these services also carry original content, which will continue to be treated as made-for-SVOD.
Payment of Program Fees
Program fees, payable to writers on network series, are now payable all at once after the season rather than during the season.
New Media Work Lists
Work lists, through which companies report to the Guild which writers are working for them each week, are now required in new media.
The Guild extended provisions for compensation for compilation episodes of weekly series to four-per-week series
Professional Writer Definition
The definition of a professional writer, which applies to certain technical provisions under the MBA, is broadened to include writing for HBSVOD as qualifying work.
Delivery of Credits Notices
The Guild agreed to accept Notices of Tentative Writing Credits by email and to permit email delivery to participating writers and their representatives, where writers have expressly consented to such delivery.