NY Post: “The soaps are effectively an industry heading for bankruptcy, and even union members realize it. In the last decade, soaps have been trying to cut costs to the bone. But those bones are covered in the impenetrable gristle of AFTRA (the daytime actors union), WGA (the writers guild), the DGA (directors) and the backstage union IATSE.
Soaps are “certainly not expensive by other entertainment gauges,” says former producer Michael Laibson, a leader of the creative teams at All My Children and Guiding Light. But “they don’t pay the people [on reality TV] the same kinds of wages. The acting, the above-the-line costs [for creative talent] are much higher on soaps. Generally, on a soap there are about 30 actors that are under contract so they have a guaranteed number of performances per week and a guaranteed salary per performance.”
Union super-minimum wages lead directly to high unemployment. AFTRA requires each of the main performers to be paid at least $913 a day, but stars get much more. Seventeen Writers Guild jobs disappear when the two ABC soaps go dark. They aren’t getting paid in Palmolive, either. Head writers (of whom there might be more than one) get at least $35,345 a week. Writing expenses are minimal on reality, which the WGA hasn’t successfully penetrated yet.”
“The soap industry is highly skilled, and Days of Our Lives is a more polished product than The Biggest Loser. Soaps are more like airlines. The value of their product has dwindled rapidly, but unions don’t provide flexibility for trimming costs to keep up. Since soaps aren’t a separate industry, they can’t use bankruptcy as a wedge to reopen contracts and make cuts. An AFTRA source who didn’t want to be identified says, “We’re certainly mindful of the challenges the industry faces,” although not mindful enough to back down on their main goal: “We want to increase pay and benefits for our members.” Hundreds of IATSE members are going to be out of work. Even unionized reality programs like ABC’s upcoming soap replacements The Chew (Mario Batali cooking show) and The Revolution (a Biggest Loser-style weight-loss show) will bring far fewer jobs in makeup, costumes, set moving, etc.”
“Maybe renegotiating the daytime serials portion of the contract would have beaten layoffs. But from the unions’ perspective, any concession sets a dangerous precedent. If they take a hit on daytime, isn’t that an invitation to cut prime-time contracts? So unions will continue to shrug at reality and the marketplace will continue to punish them.”