Multiple sources have confirmed to Daytime Confidential.com that ABC Daytime has approached the Writers Guild of America (WGA) requesting a special waiver allowing them to disregard guarantees already promised writers as a part of their current, respective contracts, in order to cut up to 20 scripted episodes a year from each of their three soap operas— All My Children, One Life to Live and General Hospital— to be replaced with classic episodes.
"ABC is basically saying, if you don't give us the waiver, we'll have no choice but to start firing writers on each show," says one source.
The timing for ABC's move has proven to be a cause for alarm for many in the industry, considering the current Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) expires May 1, 2011.
"A lot of people are wondering if ABC is doing this now in order to strengthen their position before it's time to start negotiating a new contract with the Guild in about six months," says a network insider.
ABC reportedly gave the WGA a deadline of August to decide to allow the waiver, or they will reportedly fire at least one writer on each show. That month, the network plans to start airing its first round of "classic episodes" promoting the return of Vanessa Marcil to General Hospital.
On Tuesday, July 13—following my initial Rumor Report on July 12 concerning ABC allegedly wanting to cut as many as 20 new, scripted episodes per year, per soap— ABC Daytime released a press release confirming classic episodes featuring General Hospital character Brenda Barrett (Marcil) and the "men in her life", Sonny (Maurice Benard), Jax (Ingo Radamacher) and Jason (Steve Burton) will "own the ABC Daytime drama block from 1:00-3:00 PM, ET on Tuesday, August 10."
"ABC is really betting the whole house on Vanessa's return," says one mole.
Promoting the return of Marcil and other "classic" ABC Daytime couples isn't the only reason for ABC Daytime's alleged decision to cut down their order of scripted episodes. As I previously reported, shaving production costs is the major factor.
"ABC sees this as something that will help to keep the soaps on the air," says a source. "People are really split. Some feel like, 'hey, whatever. Do what you need to do to keep all three soaps on the air', while others are ticked off. With SOAPnet going off in a year and a half, the soaps' employees are already losing those residuals, and they've already endured massive cuts."
One insider pointed out that daytime writers make only a fraction for their work what their primetime counterparts make, and don't have the luxury of having money coming in from DVD sales or residuals as a cushion.
"People think daytime writers make a lot of money, but they really don't," says the source. "The minimum pay for a primetime script is about 10 times more than the pay for a daytime script. When you factor in taxes, agents, managers and the cost of living in LA, most daytime writers are making a decent, middle class living, but they certainly aren't getting rich like most people think."
Keep checking back with Daytime Confidential.com as this story continues to develop...