AI, streaming residuals and minimum rate hikes will be among the key issues on the table when SAG-AFTRA and Hollywood’s largest employers sit down Monday for the first formal bargaining talks since the performers union went on strike July 14.
SAG-AFTRA and negotiators for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are expected to meet around midday at the union’s Miracle Mile headquarters at SAG-AFTRA Plaza. The talks follow the settlement the AMPTP reached last week with the Writers Guild of America after a 148-day strike. SAG-AFTRA negotiators and labor executives are expected to be joined by the same combination of senior industry executives who helped bring about the WGA accord: Disney CEO Bob Iger, Donna Langley, NBCUniversal chief content officer, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos and Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav.
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The new three-year contract hammered out by the WGA likely lays a good foundation for SAG-AFTRA to build on and adapt to actor-specific needs. But SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher has warned that actors have a lot of those needs. The WGA’s new contract proves that the AMPTP has broken with, or at least loosened, the practice of pattern bargaining that traditionally created some uniformity among WGA, DGA and SAG-AFTRA contracts.
“We’re happy WGA came to an agreement but one size doesn’t fit all,” Drescher told CNN on Sept. 28. “We look forward to resuming talks with the AMPTP.”
At the same time, the WGA ended this turbulent round of contract negotiations with big wins on top priorities as well the victory of addressing a long list of narrowly tailored priorities (the kind that first to go when negotiations got heated in the past), including improved payment terms screenwriters, for writing teams, for cable and streaming comedy-variety show scribes. That surely sets the stage for SAG-AFTRA to check off a lot of its to-do list, especially on improved payment terms for its most vulnerable members such as extras, background actors and day players. It’s no secret that SAG-AFTRA executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland and other union players have been in backchannel contact with the management side semi-regularly since shortly after the strike began two and a half months ago.
Industry insiders will closely watch how SAG-AFTRA approaches regulation of generative artificial intelligence and the reuse of actor likenesses using cutting-edge rendering technologies. SAG-AFTRA is looking for a boost in streaming residuals, which is likely to encompass some form of the bonus system for shows that engage 20% or more of a service’s active monthly users in the U.S. SAG-AFTRA is also pushing hard for a low double-digit hike in most miminums given that heavy toll that high inflation in recent years has taken on the bank accounts of working actors.
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