SAG-AFTRA and Actors Equity announced on Thursday that they have reached an agreement on how to handle jurisdiction over recording and streaming of stage shows, ending a dispute triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this year, Actors Equity accused SAG-AFTRA of undermining its bargaining power by negotiating lower-paying deals with theaters for streaming productions at a time when such productions are the only means of income for many stage actors who are out of work due to the pandemic.
SAG-AFTRA maintains that such productions have always been under their jurisdiction since they are produced for TV, movie theaters and streaming platforms. To resolve the dispute, SAG-AFTRA has agreed to give Actors Equity jurisdiction over recording/streaming for the duration of the pandemic for theater companies offering remote performances as a substitute for live shows on sites like Vimeo.
Stage show recordings that are broadcast or released on major streaming services, such as "Hamilton" on Disney+ are unaffected by the agreement and remain the jurisdiction of SAG-AFTRA. Contracts that have already been negotiated with SAG-AFTRA will also still be in effect.
"Recognizing the challenges for theater during the pandemic and that the only way for live theater companies to reach audiences is by recording and/or streaming productions to a remote audience, SAG-AFTRA has agreed that AEA will cover this work during the pandemic period with a term concluding December 31, 2021, subject to certain limitations including distribution on platforms like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc,"SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris and National Executive Director David White said in a statement.
"We are pleased that we are able to help create work opportunities for AEA members when it is vitally needed, while also protecting SAG-AFTRA members' work opportunities now and into the future," they added.
While a vaccine is expected to be disseminated starting next year, it is still unclear when theaters will be given clearance by state and local health officials to reopen. SAG-AFTRA and Actors Equity have agreed to meet no later than October 1 to determine if the Dec. 31, 2021 should be moved.
The full eight-page agreement can be read here.