Back at the bargaining table Monday for the first time in more than two and a half months, SAG-AFTRA and the Hollywood studios and streamers have a long way to go to make a deal – even with the momentum gained by the end of the writers’ strike.
“No one is going into this overly confident or assuming it’s going to be easier because the writers have made their deal,” a well-positioned guild member told Deadline of the renewed talks, which we exclusively revealed last week.
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“Let’s be cautious, there is some serious ‘wait and see’ here,” the SAG-AFTRA member added. “Wait and see what they bring new to the table, what they are willing to reconsider. Wait and see if they have really changed their tune or if this is the old AMPTP back in the room.”
Following the expiration of their contract June 30 and a nearly two-week extension in negotiations, the 160,00-strong actors union went out on strike July 14. Ever since, they have picketed studio gates and headquarters alongside the Writers Guild of America, which went on strike May 2. After five days of whirlwind talks over previously “intractable” issues like AI protections, data transparency, significantly increased residuals and writers room staffing, the scribes and studio CEOs reached an “exceptional,” as the WGA called it, tentative agreement on September 24 just before sundown.
As was the case in that final and successful round of deliberations with the WGA, Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers chief Carol Lombardini will be joined on the employers’ side today by NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley, Warner Bros Discovery’s David Zaslav, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and Disney’s Bob Iger. Meeting at the SAG-AFTRA offices on Wilshire’s Miracle Mile, Lombardini and the CEO Gang of Four will face the guild’s negotiating committee led by recently re-elected president Fran Drescher; National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland; and Ray Rodriguez, SAG-AFTRA’s longtime Chief Contracts Officer.
Having been back-channeling to some extent since the SAG-AFTRA strike began, the parties are scheduled to officially sit down for the first time in over 80 days at around noon PT today. As the negotiators began talks, SAG-AFTRA members will be out on the picket lines in force in Los Angeles, New York and elsewhere, as the guild made clear in a social media post Sunday evening.
📆 Our weekly picket schedule is in! We'll be at the AMPTP's doorstep, demanding justice and fairness every day. We're not going anywhere until a fair deal is on the table. Stay prepared, stay resolute, stay #SagAftraStrong! 🚀💼 pic.twitter.com/abOhwe14oN
— SAG-AFTRA (@sagaftra) October 2, 2023
The start of this latest round of negotiations between the actors’ guild and the AMPTP comes on the same day the WGA begins voting on ratification of its tentative agreement. Running October 2-9, the vote is widely anticipated to pass and would cement a new contract that spans from September 25, 2023 to May 1, 2026.
Unless a new end date is agreed upon by SAG-AFTRA and the studios and streamers in their talks, the actors guild’s new contract will end on June 30, 2026 – once they strike a deal, that is.
Although the WGA strike officially ended at 12:01 a.m. PT on September 27, after which writers could pick up their pens and open their keyboards, a plethora of scribes have still been out on the picket lines in ongoing solidarity with SAG-AFTRA.
How much longer they will all be out there is TBD, depending on how the new talks go.
“I do not expect this to be a speedy effort — it will take some time before there’s a deal,” a individual familiar with the inside lane of Hollywood labor talks noted of today’s start of talks. “Getting the AMPTP to even think about straying from the patterns they’ve set with the DGA and even the WGA to accommodate SAG-AFTRA, [that’s] going to be a struggle.”
While the tentative WGA deal provides some traction and even potential pathways on topics like AI and data transparency, “one size doesn’t fit all,” as Drescher said last week. Real increases in wages and minimums, plus virtual auditions, are obviously big issues for guild leaders to deliver for the vast majority of their financially struggling membership. Looking at the ravages of inflation and real-world cost of living, the guild was not impressed with the AMPTP’s self-styled offer of “more than $1 billion in wage, pension & health contribution and residual increases” back in July.
Then there is the idea of revenue sharing.
SAG-AFTRA says what it wants is straightforward and amounts to about 2% of the money a show makes on streaming. “Casts share in the revenue generated when their performances are exhibited on streaming platforms,” the guild said in late July about its proposal, which is based on metrics from measurement experts Parrot Analytics. “This would allow casts to share in the success of high-performing shows.”
On every avenue of the notion – from metrics to money flow to risk – the AMPTP resoundingly said no to the revenue share proposal. That POV hasn’t seemed to have change since then.
“Revenue sharing works in some sports, for sure, has for years,” an industry insider says of the SAG-AFTRA proposal for streaming series and films used by the NBA, MLB and the NFL. “Here, [SAG-AFTRA] isn’t recognizing how our business really works — it’s DOA. It was DOA even before they went out on strike in July, and it is still dead now.”
In that context, while no formal schedule has been inked on how the studio bosses and the guild will meet beyond today, it is understood that both sides want to “take the temperature of the room” Monday, one source says, and work from there.
Adding to the whole jambalaya of Tinseltown labor discord, SAG-AFTRA members voted unanimously last week to authorize a strike against the video game industry.
“The exploitative uses of AI and lagging wages” were the major concerns the guild expressed regarding the dispute.
“This strike authorization makes an emphatic statement that we must reach an agreement that will fairly compensate these talented performers, provide common-sense safety measures, and allow them to work with dignity,” Rodriguez said last week. “Our members’ livelihoods depend on it.”
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