Streaming consumption has edged out broadcast and cable viewing multiple times over the past year in Nielsen’s monthly reports. Yet in the contracts between Hollywood studios and unions, it is still classified as new or emerging media whose residuals pale in comparison to those from the traditional, linear networks.
That could finally change in the upcoming contact negotiations, SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher told Deadline on the SAG Awards red carpet.
“I had a wonderful lunch with Carol [Lombardini] who is the president of AMPTP, and we were talking about maybe trying to look at how to reinvent the wheel a little bit and stop trying to build on a contract that reflected an industry from the 1980s that barely exists anymore,” Drescher said. “So that’s the approach that I want to take to together, roll up our sleeves and look at how we can have a contract that better reflects the industry at large that exists today.”
As Deadline has reported, the DGA issues, the Writers Guild issues and the Screen Actors Guild issues have rarely been as aligned as they are this year because they’re basically all down to minimum compensations and on residuals. As a result, there has been cooperation among the guilds, and the DGA leadership recently revealed that they won’t be going in first like they typically do, opening the door for the WGA to kick off the negotiations.
“Certainly the Writers Guild, Directors Guild and SAG-AFTRA, we’re in touch, we talk to each other about what we think is important for our members, find areas of common interest and so on,” Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator, told Deadline. “It does look like the writers will be going first this time which is great, and I think as far as the directors and us, we’re eager to support them and to see what progress they made.”
The timing of the upcoming bargaining bodes well for the outcome, said Crabtree-Ireland said, who sounded cautiously optimistic.
“I do think that all of the unions have high expectations from this round of bargaining because we’re in a time in our country where I think workers in general — and that includes entertainment industry creators — really expect companies to step up and treat them fairly. And so that’s what we’re going to be expecting out of our bargaining process. And I’m hopeful, optimistic that we will achieve that and but only time will tell as we sit down across the table from those very big companies.”
The WGA contract expires May 1, while the current DGA and SAG=AFTRA deals are up June 30. With the WGA likely going first, Drescher hopes that the actors’ negotiations won’t start until mid-June when she returns from Paris.
“That would be pretty awful if I had me sitting on Zoom In Paris doing the negotiations, and I wouldn’t mind much rather enjoy my Paris holiday. I’m going to a wedding there, and sadly, I’m spreading a loved one’s ashes. But it’s my first time back since Covid, and I’m very much looking forward to it.”
She noted that SAG-AFTRA has a lot of preparation to do in the coming months. Its Wages & Working Conditions Process, where the guild leadership hears from the membership, “is winding up,” she said. “And then we’re going to have the plenaries. There’s a lot of hurdles to jump until we really feel like okay, we’ve got all our ducks in a row.”
Drescher and Crabree-Ireland posed on the SAG Awards red carpet with Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos. Netflix took over broadcasting the awards, which had been on TNT and TBS for years. The telecast is on Netflix’s YouTube channel this year and will be a live event on the Netflix streaming platform starting next year.
“I think it’s going be very exciting. And we have all kinds of amazing and exciting ideas for protracting the whole experience, going behind the scenes, visiting with the stars; we’re really pleased,” Drescher said.
Crabtree-Ireland noted Sarandos and his team’s “passion for our show and their understanding of it.”
“As we all know, streaming is really an important part of the future of our industry. And for us, it’s very exciting to be live globally starting this year, but next year on the Netflix platform, so many more people will have the option to see the SAG Awards, because we’ll be available all around the world at the same time,” he said. “I’ve talked to our sister unions in a bunch of different countries. They’re all very excited to to be part of that, and I’m personally very excited about it.”
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