No Deal Tonight: SAG-AFTRA & Studios End Long Day Of Talks, Expected Back At It Wednesday – Update

UPDATED, 9:13 PM: SAG-AFTRA and the studios are planning on talking more, but there will be no deal tonight.

After a long day of negotiations Tuesday, the sides are still grappling with several stubborn issues including AI protections, we hear. After going over the topic repeatedly and consulting with lawyers and others throughout the evening, the guild negotiating committee and the AMPTP have now penciled in another session for Wednesday, we’re told.

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Led by SAG-AFTRA chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland and AMPTP president Carol Lombardini, the parties spent hours speaking on and off today, both on the guts of a deal and the process to getting the bones of a tentative agreement on paper. Studio CEOs did not Zoom in as they have in past occasions.

(Update 10:58 PM: “Following a meeting Monday night with the AMPTP, the TV/Theatrical Negotiating Committee spent 10 hours deliberating today,” SAG-AFTRA said in a statement sent out to members late Tuesday. “We will continue on Wednesday. We appreciate your patience and support while we finish our work.” )

The lack of a tentative agreement tonight means that the soon-to-be 118-day-old strike will not be over before both Warner Bros Discovery and Disney release their quarterly earnings results Wednesday – an event horizon many incorrectly assumed the labor action would not cross.

For that, we hear from sources on both sides of the bargaining table: blame AI.

Facing a technology that is clearly evolving in leaps and bounds, the guild wants to see “sturdy guardrails,” as a SAG-AFTRA source termed it, that will protect its 160,000 members both in terms of compensation and rights to their likeness. While the gap between what the AMPTP is now offering and what the guild is seeking has significantly narrowed in the past 36 hours, they are “close but not there yet,” according to the SAG-AFTRA source.

Deadline heard from several sources that guild president Fran Drescher was pinged by A-list stars asking about whether a deal was nigh. We’re told the guild leaders too were hopeful that Tuesday was all about Lombardini and Crabtree-Ireland hammering out the details and fine print.

“A lot of red tape,” summed up one studio insider about the deal that the SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee and guild and studio lawyers were picking through. Another creative close to talks sums up, “lots of back channels today.” Studio sources trumpet the “majorly historic” deal that’s in front of the actors, while exclaiming that many actors in the ranks are upset with the ongoing strike, in addition to many below-the-line communities. On the flip of that, as well-attended pickets on both coasts attest today, guild unity remains strong.

For some, sources tonight say, this may be a matter of the right personalities.

Given Lombardini’s tough demeanor in talks, some wondered whether she was the person to close the deal with former prosecutor Crabtree-Ireland. An argument was being made Tuesday in some studio and guild circles that smooth operator Bob Iger should come in to nail the deal down. However, another insider assured, “No, she’s the one.”

As the town waits for Lombardini and Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA has pickets scheduled in Los Angeles and New York City on Wednesday. The City of Angels has a self-described post-apocalyptic theme gathering outside Netflix and a Fightin’ Irish picket outside Warner Bros.

PREVIOUSLY, 1:17 PM: The lead negotiators for SAG-AFTRA and the studios are set to meet later today in what could be the final phase to sealing a new deal and the end to the 117-day actors guild strike.

With the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA having achieved a breakthrough late last night on the contentious topic of AI, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland and AMPTP president Carol Lombardini are scheduled to talk this afternoon. “We are very close,” a guild source told Deadline. “Not done yet, but very close with strong protection language in place,” the source added of AI guardrails long sought by the guild even before they went on strike in mid-July.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, Fran Drescher, Ted Sarandos, Bob Iger, David Zaslav & Donna Langley
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, Fran Drescher, Ted Sarandos, Bob Iger, David Zaslav & Donna Langley

One studio source called a deal today “hopeful” while another giddy insider beamed “It’s going to happen.”

After SAG-AFTRA delivered its response on November 6 to the AMPTP’s so-called “last, best and final offer” of late last week, the parties got together for a Zoom meeting yesterday. Going late into the night, that meeting saw the CEO Gang of Four of Disney’s Bob Iger, Warner Bros Discovery’s David Zaslav, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley participating again. Unlike past such gatherings, the studio chiefs were eventually amenable to altering their latest proposal on AI to provide more project specific protections and compensations to performers, we hear.

Whether that shift is enough to bring an end to the bitter and costly six months of strike that have shut Hollywood down, cost the California economy $67.5 billion and seen 45,000 entertainment jobs disappear will likely be decided in the meeting between Crabtree-Ireland and Lombardini today.

“It’s all down to Duncan and Carol and smoothing out the AI language,” an insider declared. Also on the table is an agreement on minimum rates. SAG-AFTRA had wanted an 11% bump, the studios eventually offered 7% – which is better than what the WGA got in their strike ending deal back in September. The guild has since moved its ask to around 9% and the two sides are said to be settling somewhere around 8%, we hear.

Described by studio sources as “historic,” for what that’s worth, the November 3 offer from the AMPTP additionally includes, but is not limited to, a multi-decade wage increase, and a 100% raise in performance compensation bonuses for big-budget streaming series and movies that meet certain thresholds. The guild is said to have “issues” with those benchmarks, seeing them as too high to be meaningful to many of their members.

Neither the AMPTP nor SAG-AFTRA today responded to Deadline’s request for comment. If and when they do, we will update. Worth noting, both WBD and Disney have Q3 earnings results out later this week and an end to the strike would not be unwelcome on Wall Street, if you know what we mean?

As the industry waits with bated breath, Hollywood is primed to resume production of movies and TV series around the globe, to get a 2024 feature slate and TV schedule back on track.

While there were gripes from studio executives last night after the guild’s response to the studio’s “last, best, and final offer,” it turns out that both sides were closer than anticipated as they went over contract terms into the night. One exec was up in arms over the guild’s ask to have actors’ approval of their digital selves, and the union’s OK on every use of AI in addition to a digital performer. “Not how movies are made!” However, we’ll see how both sides come to terms when the dust finally settles on AI rights and streaming revenue residuals.

Still, pickets were up and SAG-AFTRA members and their allies were out on the streets of NYC and LA today.

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