The negotiations scheduled today between SAG-AFTRA and the studios didn’t happen after all — and everyone’s good with that.
Though the actors guild said last night that they were “scheduled to continue talks with them tomorrow,” that shifted this morning when SAG-AFTRA leadership reached out to the AMPTP for a short change of plans. The guild brass said they wanted to “take the time to review,” an insider tells us, the latest proposals the CEO Gang of Four and AMPTP president Carol Lombardini presented yesterday to Guild boss Fran Drescher, chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland and their team.
Somewhat surprised at first, the studio chiefs apparently appreciated the consideration and responded favorably to the brief downtime. “There is no drama about this,” one individual close to the talks told Deadline this afternoon. “Don’t read anything more into this than what it is, time to review, look at the numbers, consider the counter,” another well-positioned source stated. “This happens all the time in these kinds of negotiations. Shows people are serious, and that’s a good thing,”
Back Tuesday for a second round of renewed deliberations in the now 104-day long strike, the CEOs put an offer on the table that they hoped with shatter the stalemate the two sides have come to over the guild’s demand for revenue sharing. Centering on increased bonuses based on the success of streaming shows and movies and a bump up in minimum rates, Disney’s Bob Iger, NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley Warner Bros Discovery’s David Zaslav and Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, plus Lombardini saw their proposal as a pathway to sealing a new three-year deal with the Guild.
SAG-AFTRA negotiators didn’t quite welcome the new proposals as warmly as the studios overlords thought they would, with more than one insider saying it “flopped” in the room.
At the same time, others caution this is part of the process and the nature of mature negotiations
“It’s a step in the right direction and the negotiating committee is taking the time to do a deep review,” a guild source tight to the talks told Deadline.
As it stands right now, SAG-AFTRA’s negotiating committee and the AMPTP, joined once again by Iger, Sarandos, Langley and Zaslav will meet Thursday at the guild’s Wilshire Blvd offices.
After the tough talk around the bargaining table in the last talks that started on October 2 and some of the public remarks each side had made about the others after the studios suddenly suspended talks on October 11, there were some raw egos in the room Tuesday. In that context, the talks were deemed per studio sources as “not great” and “contentious” leaving many cynical that talks may fall apart again. Said one insider about heat in the room, it’s the first time in decades that they saw the composed Iger “lose his shit.” Said another, “it’s like both sides are speaking two completely different languages.”
However, while the negotiations were rough at points, there were also a number of light-hearted moments with Drescher specifically making much welcomed point of raising the tenor of the talks and breaking some of the tension sources on both sides say. “Everyone wants to get to an agreement, that’s clear,” a person with knowledge of negotiations noted. “No one thinks we’re just going to clap our hands and get it done, it takes work, time.”
Over the previous round of renewed talks earlier this month, SAG-AFTRA revamped their notion of more compensation for case based on the success of streaming shows and films from 2% of revenue to 1% and then suggested a percentage payout based on subscribers. On October 12, Sarandos called the latest guild plan, which worked out to around 57¢ a subscriber, a “levy” on subscribers, and exclaimed it was “a bridge too far.”
Yet it wasn’t so far a bridge, to use the streaming co-CEO’s terms, that Iger didn’t call Crabtree-Ireland up on October 21, the 100th day of the 160,000-strong guild’s strike, and ask for talks to resume ASAP.
Without negotiations, the fear on both sides is that if a deal isn’t reached in the next few weeks, there would be continued damage to an already hobbled California economy which has seen $6.5 billion in losses. Includes the setback from the WGA strike, that economic hit has seen 45,000 industry jobs lost as production has shutdown. “If a deal isn’t reached in the near future, it will mean a complete wipeout of the new 2024 TV season and all the first and second quarter movies moving to the second half of the year,” said one industry source. The box office post pandemic has benefited by a consistent stream of product, and any gaps left in the schedule will certainly deliver droughts to already debt-laden exhibitors. The fall box office currently has seen some $440M loss when compared to the same period in 2019 due to actors unable to promote films and big pics like Challengers and Dune: Part Two leaving the schedule.