The negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP have hit a lull, leaving insiders in a state of suspense. Despite rumors circulating about an imminent deal, today was characterized as “more of a waiting game.” The AMPTP has yet to respond to the revised AI proposal sent by the guild on Wednesday, as well as the comprehensive counterproposal presented on October 28. Consequently, formal talks did not take place between SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, and AMPTP president Carol Lombardini. However, both sides remain cautiously optimistic and advise against reading too much into today’s lack of dialogue. A guild source emphasized the importance of taking the time for serious consideration, stating, “This is how it should work if we want to get to a good and fair deal.”
While details remain sparse, it appears that SAG-AFTRA and the studios may have found “a comfortable place” concerning a streaming financial revenue share for performers. A studio source suggests that progress has been made, although no official announcements have been made. As usual, both parties declined to comment on the matter, leaving industry observers eagerly awaiting any updates.
On the streets, SAG-AFTRA members continue to show solidarity by marching on the picket line. The picket line was absent at Fox today, but guild members were actively demonstrating at Netflix, Sony, Disney, Paramount, Warner Bros Discovery, and Amazon. It is worth noting that Duncan Crabtree-Ireland himself joined the picket line at Amazon’s Culver City headquarters, showing his commitment to the cause.
The strikes have taken a toll on the California economy, costing over $6.5 billion and resulting in the loss of 45,000 entertainment-sector jobs. Many families have gone without a steady paycheck for six months. During Paramount Global’s earnings call, CFO Naveen Chopra revealed that the strikes have resulted in nearly $60 million of strike-related idle costs for the company. Bob Bakish, Paramount Global CEO, expanded on the impact, mentioning changes made to the film slate due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike. While late-night shows have resumed production, scripted television remains significantly affected. Bakish expressed hope for a swift resolution, emphasizing the eagerness to return to work.
The negotiations in recent days have been primarily led by Duncan Crabtree-Ireland and Carol Lombardini, with the core CEO Gang of Four (Donna Langley, David Zaslav, Ted Sarandos, and Bob Iger) absent from the discussions. However, the CEOs and their legal teams continue to be informed and ready for potential last-minute negotiations. The studios are anxious to resume production on projects like Deadpool 3, Mission: Impossible 8, and Gladiator 2, which were halted due to the strike. While the limited remaining shooting days in 2023 may pose a challenge, filmmakers are already working in the cutting room with available footage in preparation for future talks with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) next year.
The progress made by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and SAG-AFTRA in their dealmaking will serve as a foundation for upcoming negotiations with IATSE and the Teamsters. Strong union solidarity has been demonstrated, with both IATSE and the Teamsters actively supporting the WGA and SAG-AFTRA. The industry, from guilds to studios and streamers, shares concerns about the implications of artificial intelligence (AI). Duncan Crabtree-Ireland affirms that AI regulations should not be dependent on its development but rather should prioritize performers’ right to informed consent and fair compensation. SAG-AFTRA aims to protect not only top talent but also extras and performers at the bottom of the call sheet. One specific demand the guild has stressed is that AI usage should be compensated on a project-by-project basis to prevent exploitation and safeguard the acting profession for its vast membership of 160,000 performers.
While the negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP have momentarily reached a standstill, the industry remains hopeful for a fair and positive resolution. With ongoing concerns about the financial impact of strikes, the involvement of CEOs, and the pressing issue of AI rights, the road ahead may prove challenging. However, the determination and solidarity displayed by both the guild and the studios indicate a commitment to finding common ground and ensuring a prosperous future for the entertainment industry.