Hollywood Studios Break Off Negotiations With SAG-AFTRA: ‘The Gap Is Too Great’

AMPTP releases details of its latest counterproposal, which actors guild slams as “bully tactics”

The SAG-AFTRA singers strike (Photo Credit: TheWrap)
The SAG-AFTRA singers strike (Photo Credit: TheWrap)

Hope that the end of Hollywood’s strikes is near was dashed Wednesday evening as the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers announced in a memo that they were suspending talks with SAG-AFTRA after the “gap” in negotiations became “too great.”

“Negotiations between the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA have been suspended after SAG-AFTRA presented its most recent proposal on Oct. 11,” the statement read. “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.”

The studios said SAG-AFTRA’s current offer included a “viewership bonus” that would cost more than $800 million per year — “which would create an untenable economic burden. SAG-AFTRA presented few, if any, moves on the numerous remaining open items.”

In its own statement released to members and published on social media, SAG-AFTRA said that the AMPTP was using “bully tactics” and “intentionally misrepresented” the cost of the guild’s proposal, overestimating its cost by 60%.

“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. We have made big, meaningful counters on our end, including completely transforming our revenue share proposal, which would cost the companies less than 57¢ per subscriber each year,” the guild’s negotiating committee wrote.

“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. But, just like the writers, our members are smarter than that and will not be fooled,” the statement continued.

Per the studios’ account, the terms of the AMPTP’s latest proposal included:

  • A first-of-its-kind success-based residual for high-budget SVOD productions
  • The highest percentage increase in minimums in 35 years, which would generate an additional $717 million in wages and $177 million in contributions to the pension and health plans during the contract term
  • A 58% increase in salaries for major role (guest star) performers wages on high budget SVOD programs
  • A 76% increase in high budget SVOD foreign residuals for the four largest streaming services
  • Substantial increases in pension and health contribution caps, ranging from 22-33%, which will make it easier for performers to qualify for additional periods of health coverage and earn years of service toward a pension
  • Meeting nearly all of the union’s demands on casting, including guardrails around self-tapes, options for virtual and in-person auditions and accommodations to performers with disabilities
  • Compensation adjustments of 25% for singers who dance and dancers who sing on camera in the same session, whether in rehearsal or photography, representing a 30% increase over current wages
  • Wage increases for stunt coordinators of 10% in the first year and outsized increases in years two and three, and giving television stunt coordinators fixed residuals for the first time ever
  • Substantial improvements in relocation allowance — a 200% increase if the performer is on an overnight location for six months. The relocation allowance would now be payable for every season in which the performer is on an overnight location (versus a current limit of two to four seasons).
  • Substantial increases in Schedule F money breaks of between 11% and 41%. The 41% increase applies to one-hour television programs, which covers the largest number of productions done under the agreement. 
  • A 25% increase in span money breaks
  • Covering performance capture work under the agreement, which the union has sought for 20 years

On AI protections, the AMPTP said they offered the following:

  • Advance consent from the performer and background actor to create and use digital replicas
  • No digital replica of the performer can be used without the performer’s written consent and description of the intended use in the film.
  • Prohibition of later use of that replica, unless performer specifically consents to that new use and is paid for it
  • A “digital alteration” that would change the nature of an actor’s performance in a role is not permitted without informing the performer of the intended alteration and securing the performer’s consent.

Both before and after it ordered the first TV/film actors strike since 1980, SAG-AFTRA made it clear that it was not beholden to any of the terms negotiated by the AMPTP with the Directors Guild or Writers Guild. According to the AMPTP, the studios’ proposal rejected by the guild contained the same terms the WGA and DGA agreed to on general wage increases, high-budget SVOD residuals and viewership bonuses.

While the WGA and AMPTP agreed to a bonus structure for films and shows viewed by at least 20% of a streaming service’s subscribers in the first 90 days of release and secured pay increases for writers in other areas, SAG-AFTRA was adamant in a significant restructuring of streaming residuals for actors that reflects the medium’s status as the most popular viewing medium worldwide.

SAG-AFTRA has also pushed for strict regulations on artificial intelligence to ensure that actors have fully informed consent on their likeness and performance being used to create digital replicas of themselves and are properly compensated for such use.

SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP had met for five days over the past two weeks at the guild’s headquarters, alternating in-person meetings with internal strategy talks. The CEOs that were present for the final round of talks with the WGA — Disney’s Bob Iger, NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley, Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav and Netflix’s Ted Sarandos — were also present to meet with the heads of the SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee for the first time.

But with talks breaking off without a deal, it is almost certain that the current actors’ strike will become the longest in Hollywood history against film and TV productions, passing the 95-day strike held in 1980.

While the WGA strike officially ended on Monday with over 8,500 writers voting to ratify the guild’s new contract, many members have chosen to stay on the picket lines in solidarity with SAG-AFTRA, reflecting the gesture that thousands of actors made when they joined picket lines in May and June before their own strike began.

And of course, with actors still on the picket lines, hopes that production to salvage the 2023-24 TV season and much of the 2024 film release slate have taken a huge hit. Studio insiders say they were hoping to resume production on major films in January if a deal was reached this month, not to mention have actors for holiday season films and awards hopefuls out to promote their work.

In its statement, SAG-AFTRA urged its members to continue showing up on the picket lines as it pushes for a stronger deal.

“We feel the pain these companies have inflicted on our members, our strike captains, IATSE, Teamsters and Basic Crafts union members, and everyone in this industry. We have sacrificed too much to capitulate to their stonewalling and greed. We stand united and ready to negotiate today, tomorrow, and every day,” the union said.

For all of TheWrap’s Hollywood strike coverage, click here.


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