February 23, 2024

Talks between SAG-AFTRA and the major studios have broken down, as the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said Wednesday that the gap between the sides is “too great.”

In a statement to members after midnight, the union accused the studios of engaging in “bully tactics,” and said that the studios had walked away from the bargaining table after refusing to counter the union’s latest offer.

The union expressed “profound disappointment” with the latest development, and urged members to show up at picket lines to express their solidarity.

The key stumbling block is a union proposal to share in streaming revenue, which the AMPTP says would cost $800 million a year. SAG-AFTRA said that figure was exaggerated by 60%, and that its proposal would cost the streaming platforms 57 cents per subscriber per year.

“We have negotiated with them in good faith, despite the fact that last week they presented an offer that was, shockingly, worth less than they proposed before the strike began,” SAG-AFTRA told the membership. “These companies refuse to protect performers from being replaced by AI, they refuse to increase your wages to keep up with inflation, and they refuse to share a tiny portion of the immense revenue YOUR work generates for them.”

SAG-AFTRA wants a share of streaming revenue for all union-covered shows — both made-for-streaming and films and TV shows licensed from other platforms — which would go well beyond the success-based bonus won by the Writers Guild of America.

“SAG-AFTRA’s current offer included what it characterized as a viewership bonus that, by itself, would cost more than $800 million per year – which would create an untenable economic burden,” the studio group said in a statement. “SAG-AFTRA presented few, if any, moves on the numerous remaining open items.”

In its email, however, the union said it had made a “big, meaningful” counters and had completely transformed the revenue share proposal. SAG-AFTRA accused the studios of putting out misleading information in an effort to weaken the resolve of the membership.

“The companies are using the same failed strategy they tried to inflict on the WGA – putting out misleading information in an attempt to fool our members into abandoning our solidarity and putting pressure on our negotiators,” the union said. “But, just like the writers, our members are smarter than that and will not be fooled.”

SAG-AFTRA is also seeking an 11% increase in minimum rates to keep pace with inflation. The AMPTP is offering the same deal it gave the WGA and the Directors Guild of America — 5%, followed by increases of 4% and 3.5%.

The studios presented their latest offer on Wednesday. In the statement, the AMPTP said, “After meaningful conversations, it is clear that the gap between the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA is too great, and conversations are no longer moving us in a productive direction.”

“We hope that SAG-AFTRA will reconsider and return to productive negotiations soon,” the AMPTP said.

The AMPTP also spelled out the details of its most recent offer, including increases in rates for guest stars, higher pension and health contribution caps, and agreement to most of the union’s demands on self-taped auditions.

The AMPTP also said it has agreed to require consent for the use of artificial intelligence, both for principal and background actors. The union has also sought to require union sign-off on any use of AI, as well as a prohibition on AI training.

SAG-AFTRA argued that the AMPTP statement was misleading on AI, and said that the studios are still demanding “‘consent’ on the first day of employment for use of a performer’s digital replica for an entire cinematic universe (or any franchise project).”

The studio group also released point-by-point details of its proposal to the WGA when talks with that guild broke down in mid-August. That move was widely seen as an effort to go around the leadership and speak directly to WGA members, in hopes that they would put pressure on the leaders to come to a deal. It took a month for the two sides to return to bargaining.

The actors strike is now in its 90th day, and is approaching the duration of the 1980 SAG strike, which lasted 95 days.

A group of CEOs — Disney’s Bob Iger, David Zaslav of Warner Bros. Discovery, Donna Langley of NBCUniversal, and Ted Sarandos of Netflix — began meeting with the actors’ union for the first time last week. The group has been meeting with SAG-AFTRA negotiators at the union’s mid-Wilshire headquarters.

Langley appeared on Thursday evening at the Bloomberg Screentime conference, where she gave a brief update on the SAG-AFTRA talks. She gave no hint of the looming breakdown in talks.

“We’ve been spending time with the actors and we want to spend as much time as it takes until we can reach a resolution and get the industry back on its feet and back to work,” she said.

Meanwhile, the DGA sent a message to its members on Wednesday defending its own deal, which was reached in June. The DGA has faced renewed criticism for not taking a harder line in its negotiations, especially from writer-directors who feel the guild should have joined the WGA on the picket lines.

The DGA told members it is “extremely proud” of its agreement, which includes an increase in foreign residuals, a second cut for TV directors, and an extra shoot day for directors of one-hour shows on streaming and pay TV.

The WGA voted 99% in favor of ratifying its new agreement on Monday, officially ending one of the longest labor disputes in that guild’s history. The union won a bonus for writers of top-performing made-for-streaming shows, as well as minimum staffing levels in TV and a guaranteed rewrite for feature writers.

Chris Keyser, the co-chair of the WGA negotiating committee, released a video on Wednesday, in which he urged members to contribute to strike relief funds.

“The long tail of these two strikes will cause suffering for months to come,” Keyser said. “Let us bind up the wounds of this summer and put people back on their feet and this business back to work.”

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