Studios Expect SAG-AFTRA Talks to ‘Ramp Up’ and Dig Deeper Beginning Monday

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Three insiders tell TheWrap that contract negotiations will tackle key issues after WGA contract vote results are released

SAG-AFTRA Strike Talks Studios AMPTP
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After a slow but steady restart of talks on a new contract, negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) are expected to “ramp up” and explore deeper issues and sticking points in the bargaining agreement, three insiders with knowledge of the studio side of negotiations told TheWrap.

According to the insiders, the first two days of resumed negotiations this past Monday and Wednesday were largely focused on the CEOs who led negotiations with the Writers Guild of America — Disney’s Bob Iger, Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav, NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley, and Netflix’s Ted Sarandos — getting up to speed with the leaders of the actors guild’s negotiating committee.

While the CEOs had been briefed by their labor teams and AMPTP president Carol Lombardini, Monday marked the first face-to-face discussions between them and SAG-AFTRA’s president Fran Drescher and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland on the contract.

SAG-AFTRA’s chief contracts officer Ray Rodriguez and negotiating committee vice chairs Jodi Long, Tom Kemp and Linda Powell were also at the talks with the CEOs.

On Wednesday, Crabtree-Ireland had to step away from negotiations to testify at a Federal Trade Commission hearing on generative AI, one of the key issues to be addressed in the talks ahead. The two sides are set to meet again on Friday.

The studios are concurrently waiting for the results of the ongoing ratification vote for their WGA contract. Results are expected to be announced on Monday after online voting for members closes. While the contract is expected to be ratified by the writers, the studios are waiting until they get confirmation that the WGA deal is fully secured before truly getting into the nuts and bolts of SAG-AFTRA’s contract.

Next week, the two sides are expected to engage in deep talks on the biggest sticking point during the first round of talks in June: streaming. SAG-AFTRA has publicly signaled that it is pushing for significant changes in how actors are compensated for their work appearing on streaming services, calling for a new structure that reflects streaming’s status as the top entertainment medium and the higher costs of living that guild members living in Los Angeles and other major production hubs face.

The AMPTP outright rejected SAG-AFTRA’s proposed model of streaming services sending a percentage of their revenue to the guild, which would split it among members based on viewership data from third party sources. It will be up to the two sides to find an agreement that allows for higher pay and also addresses transparency on viewership data, something that the AMPTP agreed to share confidentially with the WGA on the condition that it only be shared in aggregate with rank-and-file members.

SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP announced in a joint statement on Wednesday that the two sides would be working internally over the weekend before resuming talks on Monday. Insiders said there have been no discussions on whether the scheduled negotiations would happen every day next week as opposed to every other day like this week.

In the meantime, SAG-AFTRA members continue to man picket lines at various Hollywood studios, with the guild announcing a themed picket line at the Warner Bros. studios on Friday featuring actors from TV shows about first responders. Actors from shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “9-1-1” were expected to attend.

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