“This tentative agreement represents a new paradigm,” the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) said in a statement. “It gives SAG-AFTRA the biggest contract-on-contract gains in the history of the union, including the largest increase in minimum wages in the last forty years; a brand new residual for streaming programs; extensive consent and compensation protections in the use of artificial intelligence; and sizable contract increases on items across the board.”
AMPTP represents a consortium of the biggest studios and streaming companies including Warner Bros., Paramount, Netflix and Amazon. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
“The AMPTP is pleased to have reached a tentative agreement and looks forward to the industry resuming the work of telling great stories.”
A statement from SAG-AFTRA said the new deal is valued at more than $1 billion and includes a “streaming participation bonus,” as well as “above pattern” minimum compensation increases. Background actors will also see a pay increase, the statement said.
The deal also includes an increase for pension and health caps, as well “provisions for consent and compensation that will protect members from the threat of AI,” the statement said. “We have arrived at a contract that will enable SAG-AFTRA members from every category to build sustainable careers. Many thousands of performers now and into the future will benefit from this work.”
Details of the agreement were not immediately clear. The entire proposed contract will be made public Friday if SAG’s leadership signs off on the deal.
Performers in the union would then vote on the contract and presumably return to their jobs. The actors would join more than 10,000 unionized writers who ended a parallel strike in September — and conclude one of the longest and broadest work stoppages in Hollywood history.
“We did it,” Fran Drescher, president of SAG-AFTRA, write in an Instagram post Wednesday night, adding that “new ground was broke everywhere” with the tentative agreement. She thanked SAG-AFTRA members “for hanging in and holding out for this historic deal” as well as “our sister unions for their unrelenting support! And the amptp for hearing us and meeting this moment!”
“We’re thrilled to see SAG-AFTRA members win a contract that creates new protections for performers and gives them a greater share of the immense value they create,” the Writers Guild of America said in a statement Wednesday night.
Several celebrities reacted to the news Wednesday night. Quinta Brunson teased the return of “Abbott Elementary,” and Jeremy Allen White and Zac Efron celebrated the news while at the premiere for the upcoming film “The Iron Claw.”
“I’m sure SAG got what we wanted,” White told Entertainment Tonight.
“I’m of course relieved and very happy for all of us,” said David Silverman, a SAG member who has worked on “The Simpsons.” “The union had to hold the line at this juncture, and everyone should be proud that they did. I’m looking forward to a lot of friends of mine getting back to work.”
A massive swath of TV and movie productions has been disrupted, halted or canceled since early May, when the Writers Guild of America called a strike after failing to agree on a new contract with the studios.
The crisis dramatically escalated in mid-July, when SAG actors walked out, too. Members of both unions overwhelmingly supported the strikes, which left studios without most screenwriters and a limited number of performers to put on camera.
Although many reality shows and some independent projects were able to continue production, the big studios were forced to delay numerous anticipated blockbusters including “Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse,” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” “Dune: Part Two” and “Gladiator 2,” as well as such hit shows such as “Abbott Elementary,” “Euphoria,” “Stranger Things” and “Yellowjackets.”
University of Southern California historian and Hollywood labor expert Steven J. Ross told The Washington Post this summer that this was “an existential strike.”
Actors and writers had gone on strike separately many times, but their unions had not joined forces in a walkout since 1960, when workers demanded a bigger cut of the growing market for TV broadcasts, among other transformative issues.
Technological and economic disruptions united a wide range of workers against the studios this time around, too. “Shame on them. They stand on the wrong side of history,” Drescher declared upon calling the actors strike in July.
The unions’ biggest demands included more compensation when their work is streamed on such platforms as Netflix, Apple and Amazon. Under streaming systems, Hollywood workers have generally earned far smaller residual payments than they did under older models, such as with TV reruns or physical movie rentals. About 80 percent of SAG-AFTRA members make less than $27,000 annually, the union said, while some studio chiefs make more than $100 million a year.
Rapidly advancing AI software was another central and highly divisive issue. Writers have been concerned that studios will partially replace them with the technology behind popular chatbots like ChatGPT, and many actors have feared having their likeness digitized and simulated without compensation or consent.
Negotiators were locked in a stalemate for much of the summer and fall, with studio executives reportedly betting that the unions’ resolve would wane as their workers went months without pay. That didn’t happen. Thousands of SAG-AFTRA members signed an open letter to their negotiators in late October, declaring that “we would rather stay on strike than take a bad deal.”
Nervousness grew among some Hollywood executives. Besides shutting down production lots, the strike rules barred actors from promoting their projects at film festivals, conventions and awards shows, greatly hindering studios’ ability to market the shows and films they had in their pocket. SAG-AFTRA negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland told The Post at one point in the strike that by prohibiting the promotion of struck work, the union was using “every bit of leverage we have.”
Those pressures helped bring studio chiefs such as Bob Iger of Disney, Donna Langley of NBCUniversal, Ted Sarandos of Netflix and David Zaslav of Warner Bros. to the negotiating tables, and the list of concessions they offered the unions grew over several weeks of intermittent meetings.
The WGA and studios announced a breakthrough in late September. Days later, writers returned to work with a new contract that guaranteed them better pay, minimum staffing requirements and protections against the encroachment of AI.
That agreement sparked hopes that the actors and studios could soon reach a deal, too. After months without significant talks, negotiators for SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP began meeting again shortly after the writers strike ended.
“Hopefully, a precedent has been established, the actors can get a fair deal, as well, and we can all get back to work very soon,” WGA member Michael Jamin (“King of the Hill,” “Just Shoot Me”), told The Post in September.