SAG-AFTRA, studio negotiations break down, AMPTP says

Negotiations between the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and Hollywood studios have come to a standstill, further exacerbating the ongoing actors’ strike that has plagued the entertainment industry for the past three months. The breakdown in talks occurred due to the significant divide between the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and SAG-AFTRA.

In a statement, the AMPTP stated that despite meaningful conversations, the gap between the two parties was too substantial, and the talks were no longer productive. SAG-AFTRA, representing 160,000 performers, has not yet commented on the breakdown.

The recent stalemate follows tensions over various issues, including the demand for actors to receive a share of the revenue generated by streaming shows. The guild’s proposal to garner a 2% cut of streaming revenue has been met with resistance from company executives. Legacy entertainment companies, who are undergoing a transition away from traditional pay-TV models, argue that sharing streaming revenue would create an untenable economic burden.

The AMPTP has, however, offered SAG-AFTRA a success-based residual for subscription-based streaming productions, alongside generous increases in minimums, foreign streaming residuals, pension and health contribution caps, and relocation allowances.

Another contentious topic of discussion is the use of generative artificial intelligence (AI), which actors believe poses a threat to their livelihoods. The two sides are struggling to find common ground on this issue as well.

Since the talks resumed on October 2, progress has been slow. Key industry figures such as Walt Disney Co.’s Chief Executive Bob Iger, Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, and NBCUniversal Studio Group Chairman Donna Langley have been attending the sessions, along with SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher.

The strike, which began in mid-July, has had a significant impact on the film and TV industry. Actors are demanding greater compensation, higher residuals, revenue sharing, and increased protection against the use of AI to replicate their performances.

SAG-AFTRA proposed using a content valuation tool from third-party data research firm Parrot Analytics to determine the revenue contribution of streaming programs. The AMPTP raised concerns about the effectiveness of Parrot’s data in accurately representing the revenue received by streaming services, leading to further complications.

Ari Emanuel, the CEO of media agency Endeavor, expressed frustration with the slow progress of the negotiations, stating that it is affecting many people in the industry. However, he emphasized the need for compromise and urged the parties involved to find a resolution to get the industry back on its feet.

The lack of a resolution between SAG-AFTRA and the studios is especially disappointing following the recent successful agreement between the studios and the Writers Guild of America (WGA), which ended a 148-day strike. The WGA contract included higher pay, AI protections, and bonus payments based on viewership for streaming shows.

The stalemate between SAG-AFTRA and the studios further prolongs the suffering and financial hardships experienced by numerous individuals in the industry. It is crucial for both parties to find common ground and reach a mutually beneficial agreement that will allow the industry to recover and resume normal operations.