SAG-AFTRA, AMPTP Reach Tentative Agreement On TV/Theatrical/New Media Contract
This Jan. 19, 2020 file photo shows SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris at the 26th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
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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.

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.

Significant improvements were also 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. 

Eliminating “Grandfathering” 
Additionally, the application of “grandfathering” will be nearly eliminated by year two of the agreement so that new episodes of existing series can enjoy the benefit of these increases.  The agreement adjusts the formula for advertiser-supported streaming of high-budget, subscription streaming programs that are exhibited on a related platform and provides clarity for how subscriber counts are determined for newly-launched subscription streaming platforms.  

SAG-AFTRA president and Negotiating Committee chair Gabrielle Carteris said, “We are living in transformational times. With all that is happening in the world right now, we accomplished something significant, with gains in streaming residuals and increased contributions to the benefits plans. 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.

“I want to congratulate and commend the members of this negotiating committee for their hard work and foresight. I also want to recognize our extraordinary staff, especially national executive director and chief negotiator David White and chief contracts officer Ray Rodriguez, for their unrelenting advocacy and tough bargaining on behalf of SAG-AFTRA members,” Carteris added.

White said, “This agreement represents significant and much needed monies to our pension, health and retirement plans, and compensation gains designed to protect the current and next generation of our membership, particularly in the area of high-budget subscription streaming residuals. We also have specific wins for weekly stunt performers and background performers, in addition to language codifying much-needed improvements in the critical area of nudity and simulated sex scenes.”

From Past to Future: Recognizing Changing Business Models in Syndication
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.

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.


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