LOS ANGELES — The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has reached a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on successor agreements covering motion pictures, scripted primetime dramatic television and new media production.
The new three-year agreement will be presented to the SAG-AFTRA National Board of Directors for its approval, to be followed by a member ratification vote.
Negotiations began April 27 and concluded June 11.
In a total package valued at a record-breaking $318 million, the union achieved gains in residuals paid for high-budget subscription streaming; unprecedented increases to the contribution rate to the pension, health and retirement funds (up to 2%, including optional wage diversions); groundbreaking improvements to provisions governing nudity, simulated sex and sexual harassment for all performers, including background; additional protection of the overtime provisions for weekly stunt performers on episodic productions; and an increase to the background count in episodic television in the West Coast zone in the second year of the contract.
Further, “significant improvements” were secured in the residuals rate paid to performers for exhibition of their performances for high-budget subscription streaming on platforms like Amazon, Disney+, Hulu and others.
The improvements include:
- Lower (Better) Budget Thresholds for High-Budget Subscription Streaming. Reducing the budget needed to trigger the high-budget subscription streaming terms, thereby shrinking the subset of streaming programs that do not benefit from the application of scale and other traditional television terms;
- Better Residuals Formulas.
- (Ceilings) Increasing the ceilings that cap the amount of performer compensation included in the residual calculation;
- (Percentages) Increasing the percentages that are applied to performer compensation to calculate the residual for the first three years of availability of a program; and
- (Foreign) Increasing the percentage used to calculate the residual for availability of a high-budget subscription streaming program on an affiliated foreign streaming service.
SAG-AFTRA President and Negotiating Committee Chair Gabrielle Carteris said, “I am proud of the historic protections we achieved for SAG-AFTRA members, particularly women working in scenes related to nudity and simulated sex. Working with this negotiating committee has been an honor. They have distinguished themselves with their commitment, dedication and drive. After participating in more than a decade of negotiations, this is one of the most meaningful packages we have ever secured. Fighting for the needs of the membership, we looked to the future and planned smartly for where our industry is going. This is a real and well-deserved victory.”
Recognizing the continued decline of broadcast syndication and the inherent challenges to producers in syndicating under a fixed-residual in the current market, the union conformed to the industry pattern replacing the fixed residual with a 6% revenue-based residual in order to secure improvements in high-budget subscription streaming – the fastest growing part of our business. Importantly, those programs that are currently syndicated under an existing license will continue to pay residuals under the current, fixed residual formula through the duration of the license, including any extensions.
The union secured an additional protection that, for performer contracts entered into on or after July 1, 2020, the new syndication residual may not be advance paid, ensuring that performers actually receive checks for future syndication exhibition of their work. This protects members while positioning performers for enormous gains in the streaming-dominated television landscape of the future.
Under the new agreement, the union also conformed to the extension of the existing domestic travel protocol by allowing international short flights (less than 1,000 air miles) to be booked as coach internationally. Importantly, long-distance flights will still require producers to travel performers in business class. In addition, the union secured an additional protection requiring access to private lounges and priority boarding privileges, when available for short trips in coach outside of North America. This provides security for performers who may be recognized in these airports due to exhibition of their work in international markets.
The union agreed to additional flexibility for producers to find the best platform for their shows by giving them certainty that they can pay residuals as though the program was always going to be made for the platform on which it ends up initially exhibiting. This provision applies to shows made for television and subscription streaming services like Amazon, Hulu, etc. The provision includes terms protecting performer compensation in the event of a platform change.
Highlights of the tentative agreement include:
- Total package valued at $318 million over three years;
- 3-year agreement commencing July 1, 2020 and expiring June 30, 2023;
- Wage increases of 2.5% percent in the first year, 3%in the second year and 3%in the third year, with options to divert 0.5% to SAG-AFTRA Health Plan or the SAG Pension Plan/AFTRA Retirement Fund in years two and three;
- Improved residuals for original programming made for high-budget subscription streaming;
- Substantial gains to funding the SAG-AFTRA Health plan with a 1% increase to the contribution rate in year one, which is forecast to generate approximately $54 million in additional funding for the next three years, and the opportunity to add another 1% to either the Health Plan or the Pension Plan/Retirement Fund through wage diversions in years two and three;
- Meaningful improvements to protections for principal and background performers working in the nude or performing in simulated sex scenes, including improvements to notice and consent requirements;
- Improvements to how overtime is calculated for weekly stunt performers employed by the week on episodic series under schedule H-II;
- Improvements to money and schedule breaks;
- An additional covered background position for West Coast episodic production commencing in year two.