February 29, 2024

SAG-AFTRA negotiators have approved a tentative agreement that will end the longest actors strike against the film and TV studios in Hollywood history.

In an announcement Wednesday, the union said the strike would officially end at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday.

The union’s negotiating committee approved the deal on a unanimous vote. The agreement next goes to the SAG-AFTRA national board for approval on Friday.

The two sides spent the last several days putting the finishing touches on the deal, which will see the first-ever protections for actors against artificial intelligence and a historic pay increase. The full details are expected to be released Friday, after the national board vote.

As the deal neared the finish line, AI remained one of the most complicated issues to resolve. Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s top negotiator, met with Carol Lombardini, the CEO of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, via Zoom on Wednesday to work on the last details.

In an appearance on CNBC on Wednesday, Disney CEO Bob Iger said he was “optimistic” that a deal would come together soon. He said the financial impact of the strike had been “negligible” so far, but warned that it could become more severe if a deal was not reached quickly.

“Obviously we’d like to try to preserve a summer of films,” Iger said. “The entire industry is focused on that. We don’t have much time to do that.”

The AMPTP delivered its “last, best and final” offer on Friday, which included an increased bonus for actors who appear on the most-watched streaming shows. The offer did not include a key union priority — a share of revenue from each streaming platform.

SAG-AFTRA’s negotiating committee spent 12 hours on Sunday crafting its response. As of Monday, the union said that there remained differences on “several key items.” The AMPTP modified its AI language in a meeting on Monday night, leading to a 10-hour SAG-AFTRA committee meeting on Tuesday.

The committee met again on Wednesday morning to continue to its deliberations.

Union members will still have to vote to ratify an agreement, a process that is likely to take at least a week or more. But the strike has already been called off, meaning that actors can return to work on Thursday.

Talks resumed on Oct. 24 after a two-week breakdown. Since then, there have been continuous negotiations as the sides inched their way toward an agreement.

Negotiations are typically left to the staff of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the entity that bargains on behalf of the major studios. But four CEOs — Donna Langley of NBCUniversal, Ted Sarandos of Netflix, David Zaslav of Warner Bros. Discovery and Iger of Disney — have taken a hands-on role over the last six weeks.

The CEOs met first with the leadership of the Writers Guild of America to hammer out that agreement in late September, and then met numerous times with Fran Drescher, the president of SAG-AFTRA, and Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s chief negotiator, in an effort to end the crippling strike.

Most TV and film production has been shut down since the writers went on strike six months ago. The actors union joined them on the picket lines in mid-July, shutting down all but a relatively small number of independent film productions.

Over the last several weeks, some A-list actors have grown increasingly restless at the lack of a deal. In an interview on “CBS Mornings” on Tuesday, Tyler Perry implicitly urged the union to declare victory.

“It’s really important to know when we’ve won,” he said.

And the studios have warned that if a tentative agreement was not reached soon, the 2023-24 TV season would be lost, and next summer’s theatrical season would be crippled.

Before this year, the longest actors strike against the TV and film companies ran for 95 days in 1980. The 2023 strike eclipsed that mark on Oct. 17.

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