Hollywood studios are giving one more week to negotiations with SAG-AFTRA before they are ready to pack it in for the rest of the year, TheWrap has learned.
According to an individual with knowledge of their thinking, the studios believe that if they can’t reach a deal in the next week with the Screen Actors Guild, which has been on strike since July 14, then no new production will be able to start before 2024.
If that is the case, the studios further believe, then the fall television season is lost, and new movies won’t be able to come out until next summer. In this scenario, early November would be the drop-dead date to salvage any ability to put television or movies into production. Once the calendar hits Thanksgiving, it is unlikely any project would begin production, pushing off everything to the new year, this individual said, and killing the studios’ incentive to push for a deal.
All that puts significant pressure on the talks going on this week.
The CEOs from four of the major entertainment conglomerates – Disney’s Bob Iger, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav and NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley – will meet anew on Thursday with SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland and their legal teams in an effort to reach a contract.
The negotiations restarted this week on Tuesday after the CEOs walked away two weeks ago over a new demand that SAG-AFTRA receive a $1-per-subscription fee from streaming divisions on top of raises and other benefits that had been negotiated between the two sides. The studios considered that proposal, along with two previous ones seeking a percentage of all streaming revenue, as a non-starter.
Meanwhile the CEOs, who are negotiating on behalf of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), presented their counter-offer to the guild on Tuesday.
The guild decided to skip further bargaining on Wednesday so they could discuss the offer.
An insider familiar with the studio side of talks said there was some surprise among the AMPTP ranks when the SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee requested the delay, but they are taking it as a hopeful sign that there will be progress when the two sides do meet again.
Tuesday’s meeting was the first since Oct. 11, when the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios in contract talks, abruptly walked away from talks. The primary disagreement behind that decision concerned SAG-AFTRA’s proposed streaming revenue-sharing plan, which AMPTP leaders characterized as a “levy” on streaming services.
SAG-AFTRA estimated its proposal to average to about 57 cents per streaming subscriber, with that revenue being paid to the guild who would in turn distribute it to performers whose work appears on the streaming service. The AMPTP, which says the fee in the actors’ union proposal actually was a $1-per-subscription fee, rejected the proposal in a statement released on Oct. 11, calling it an “untenable economic burden.”
The AMPTP is pushing for a viewership bonus model similar to the one agreed to with the WGA and had believed when talks first resumed that it would have been sufficient to reach a deal with the actors guild. But SAG-AFTRA believes that the revenue-sharing plan is a better model to ensure increased pay for performers throughout the union’s membership for the work they do on streaming films and TV shows.
A SAG-AFTRA representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.