It goes without saying that streaming video is changing the rules of the game in many areas of the film and television industries. Netflix recently caused the prestigious Cannes Film Festival to change its rules to accommodate straight-to-streaming film premieres, while much of the industry’s top on-and-off-screen talent is beginning to eschew major film studios in favor of streaming releases. Many of the main issues the rise of streaming has brought up concern the payments that actors, producers, and crew earn for streaming releases. The distribution of streaming video is vastly different from typical theatrical or television distribution, and the unions representing film and television workers have yet to catch up with the changes. However, just this week the Screen Actors Guild American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (or Screen Actors Guild) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have reached an agreement which would see actors earning more for their work filmed exclusively for streaming services.
According to a Screen Actors Guild press release, “significant improvements were secured in the residuals rate paid to performers for exhibition of their performances on streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon.” Based on the new terms, actors are now entitled to earn residual payments for work streaming on subscription video-on-demand platforms as soon as 90 days after premiere. Previous agreements stipulated a one-year wait period before Screen Actors Guild members could earn residuals. The new deal also includes a 300% raise in residuals earned by actors within the first two years of their work premiering on Netflix in particular.
Screen Actors Guild President and Negotiating Committee Chair Gabrielle Carteris says the tentative three-year agreement is a major step forward in protecting actors’ rights to income earned for streaming releases:
This is a forward-looking package with meaningful gains across our entire membership. Working with our terrific negotiating committee and staff, we achieved significant improvements in streaming new media compensation. We also established comprehensive travel guidelines to eliminate ambiguity and provide a seasonal fee schedule for location series work.
Of course, the agreement is likely to raise production costs on straight-to-streaming productions, and it’s unknown how streaming services themselves will react to the deal. Nonetheless, keeping actors happy is a huge step in ensuring the future of top-notch streaming content.