EXCLUSIVE: Many TV actors will soon be paying more commissions to their agents under new rules approved by the SAG-AFTRA board of directors. The new rules, which went into effect Monday, govern the commissions that talent agents can take on their clients’ residuals. It allows franchised agents to use AFTRA’s old commission schedule on certain TV shows instead of SAG’s.
While the change was only designed to bring the union’s separate agency franchise agreements into alignment, it could also be seen as a sign that SAG-AFTRA is willing to talk with the Association of Talent Agents about ending their 13-year contract impasse.
“The union is taking steps to equalize its commissions structure with a view toward a new agency agreement that will cover all of its franchised agents,” Zino Macaluso, national director and senior counsel of SAG-AFTRA’s professional representatives department, told Deadline.
SAG and the ATA had a falling out in 2002 when they couldn’t come to terms on a new franchise agreement. The main sticking point was that the big talent agencies wanted the right to invest in, or be invested in, by ad agencies, advertisers and independent producers. SAG viewed such financial interests as an irreconcilable conflict of interest, putting the actor in the position of being repped by an agency that could also be his or her employer.
When SAG members rejected a proposed deal, the two sides went their separate ways, and have yet to reconcile. That same year, the same dispute over financial interest also drove a wedge between SAG and AFTRA, with AFTRA siding with the ATA by allowing its franchised agents to have limited financial interests in production companies.
The new commission rules are another sign that SAG-AFTRA is continuing to solidify its merger. Since the 2012 tie-up, SAG-AFTRA has had two sets of rules governing agents: agents franchised by SAG operated under one set of rules, while agents franchised by AFTRA operated under another. The rules change is a first step toward unifying the unions’ agency regulations.
“This modification in commissionability is intended to equalize commission structures moving forward for all of SAG-AFTRA television programming,” the union said. For now, it only applies to commissions on residuals from broadcast TV shows aired in network non-primetime and in syndication. It also only applies to franchised agents in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, Hawaii and Washington, D.C.
But in the long run, it could also be a first step towards ending SAG’s dispute with the ATA and the major talent agencies.