Hollywood actors win streaming bonuses under new contract

Streaming services will pay bonuses of about $40 million a year as part of the tentative labor agreement reached between the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA and major Hollywood studios, union leaders said Friday after their board backed for the agreement.

86 percent of SAG-AFTRA’s national board endorsed the proposed three-year contract, which the union said would be worth more than $1 billion over three years.

Union members must now vote on whether to ratify the deal with Netflix, Walt Disney, Warner Bros Discovery and other members of the Alliance of Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

Voting is expected to end in early December, said chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland.

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said the union had partially achieved its goal of getting streaming services to share more revenue with actors. Although companies rejected earlier proposals that included a per-subscriber fee, they agreed to new bonus payments.

“We opened up a new revenue stream,” Drescher said at a press conference. “We went into another pocket.”

Under the terms of the deal, 75 percent of the $40 million pool will go to actors on the most popular streaming shows. The remaining 25 percent will go to a fund that will be distributed to actors on other streaming shows.

The AMPTP said it was pleased that the SAG-AFTRA board supported the deal.

“We are also grateful that the entire industry has enthusiastically returned to work,” the group said in a statement.

Aside from the new bonus payment from streaming services, the agreement increases minimum wages for rank and file actors and sets guardrails around the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in filmmaking.

AI was one of the issues resolved in the final hours of negotiations, Crabtree-Ireland said.

Studios must get an actor’s consent before using their image to create a digital replica, and provide a specific description, he said. The actor would receive a payment equal to the type of work that the digital replica is doing on the screen.

The contract also protects background performers from using their digital replicas without consent, Crabtree-Ireland said.

The use of genetic AI to create “pseudo-synthetic performers” has sparked “a very serious fight,” Crabtree-Ireland said.

Under the contract, companies must obtain consent from performers whose facial features are used to create a synthetic performer, even if there is more than one performer.

The studios must notify the union any time they plan to use genetic AI to create a synthetic performer, and the union won the right to negotiate compensation on behalf of the actor whose features were used to create that digital performer .

The deal was reached on Wednesday, ending the second of two overlapping strikes in the US entertainment industry that cost the California economy more than $6 billion.

The first, conducted by the Writers Guild of America (WGA), began in May and lasted 148 days. SAG-AFTRA walked off the job in July and ended its strike this week after 118 days.

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Updated: 11 November 2023, 10:20 AM IST

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