The tentative deal reached between actors and Hollywood studios after a four-month strike includes a big nod to the streaming era.
Under the deal, cast members of hit streaming shows would receive much larger bonuses. Previously, these types of performance-based payments, which could be substantial for theatrically released films and traditional TV shows, were negligible for actors even on the most popular streaming programs.
This represents a significant step forward for actors, whose work is increasingly produced by or for streaming services. At the start of the strike, cast members of popular streaming shows like Netflix shared on social media the small size of their streaming residuals. Many of these actors wondered how critically acclaimed shows or viewership hits (or sometimes both) could pay them so little. Kimiko Glennwho played a supporting role in one of Netflix’s first original series, Orange is the new blackwas among the first to go viral when she shared a TikTok video showing a foreign residual check in the amount of $27.30. Break the bad star Aaron Paul said he didn’t do it Earn money of Netflix which broadcasts the series, for which he won three Emmy Awards.
Streaming companies, which have quickly gained major establishment in Hollywood, have carefully guarded their audience data. They often reported statistics such as subscribers, but they insights rarely offered about the most popular shows and movies on their services. In recent years, some streaming services like Netflix and Max, owned by Warner Bros. Discoverystarted publishing top 10 lists, but even these are comparative and don’t show detailed viewer numbers. In the past, Hollywood relied on third-party measurement companies like Nielsen to provide ratings to gauge, among other things, how much actors and writers should earn in residual payments. However, with streaming, that money largely doesn’t reach the actors.
Residual payments were introduced in 1960, the last time writers and actors went on strike simultaneously. During this strike, the two unions negotiated an agreement framework for contemporary residues. Technically, streamers pay residuals, but they’re much lower than what an actor would earn for TV reruns or DVD sales.
In the agreement in principle with the actors’ union, the studios agreed on a data transparency clause for the evaluation of residuals. Streamers would have to share data, including the total number of hours users spent watching individual shows in the United States and abroad, as well as how long the program in question was broadcast. This data will always remain confidential and will be subject to a confidentiality agreement, according to a summary of the contract.
Actors would also be eligible for a $120 million streaming bonus fund that would provide 40 million dollars per year to them during the three years of the contract. In the current agreement. cast members of streaming shows would earn a bonus if the show was watched by more than 20% of the platform’s total viewers within the first 90 days of its release. If a show reaches the threshold, 75% of the payments will go directly to the cast. The remaining 25% would be paid into a fund administered jointly by the actors’ union and the studios, which would be disbursed later as they decide. Fran Drescher, president of SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union, acknowledged that only “a thimbleful of shows” would benefit from the new arrangement.
Ensuring additional payments for even the most popular streaming shows was a major change, Drescher said during a press conference last week. “That’s what we told them at the beginning [the studios],” she said. “It didn’t matter the mechanism, it didn’t matter the amount. What mattered was that we ended up in another pocket – and we did.”
The agreement in principle will be voted on by all members of the actors’ union from Tuesday until December 5.
Although the contract represents significant gains for players in terms of payments from streaming services, the union fell short of its initial stated goals. He initially asked for 2% of the streaming service’s revenue, then lowered that to 1%, then proposed a per-subscriber fee that would have amounted to 57 cents per user. Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said that “a bridge too far.” The initial offer of a per-subscriber payment to the union included the proposal for a jointly managed fund to administer the payments, which resulted in the agreement in principle, although under different conditions.
During her press conference, Drescher said she initially had doubts about whether SAG-AFTRA had made sufficient gains for its members. But when she considered that the union had set a new precedent for the industry, she regained her momentum. “Suddenly I started to get my momentum back,” she said, realizing that the current deal opened the door to further gains in the future.