SAG-AFTRA Awaits Studios’ Response To Latest AI Proposals On Day Of No Formal Talks; More “Bargaining With The Companies” Friday – Update

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UPDATE 9:17PM: SAG-AFTRA‘s TV/Theatrical Negotiating Committee informed members tonight that they’re awaiting a response from studios on the guild’s AI counter from yesterday as well as the actors’ “comprehensive counter proposal” they put forth to the AMPTP five days ago.

As Deadline told you earlier, today was one of non-talks, however, sources believe that the studios are reviewing all the AI intel the guilds put before them.

“The Negotiating Committee was on standby today awaiting a response from the AMPTP on both the AI counter we presented yesterday, and the comprehensive counter proposal we passed across the table five days ago,” read tonight’s statement from the TV/Theatrical Negotiating Committee.

“Our team looks forward to continuing bargaining with the companies tomorrow,” ended the statement.

Tomorrow, Friday, will mark the 113th day of the actors’ strike. Sources on both sides would not be shocked if talks extend into the weekend. We are told that studio CEOs are on standby for either zoom or in-person should their attendance be requested.

We’ve been told that the guild and the studios are at a good place when it comes to streaming revenue share terms, however, details have been kept close to the vest.

PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE: It was all quiet on the SAG-AFTRA negotiations front Thursday.

After a frenzy of rumors the past few days that a deal is all but done between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP, today was “more of a waiting game,” according to an insider. Following Wednesday’s high-level back and forth on AI protections and more, the studios were pretty silent this 112th day of the actors strike.

Although it was expected the two sides would talk today, the AMPTP has not responded to the revised AI proposal the guild sent over Wednesday. It also has not responded to the self-described “comprehensive counter” put forth by SAG-AFTRA on October 28, we hear. Therefore, no formal talks occurred today between guild chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland and AMPTP president Carol Lombardini.

Still, a week and a half into this latest round of renewed deliberations, sources on both sides remain optimistic and warn about reading too much into today’s non-talks. “I would be worried if they got back to us in a couple of hours, then I’d think they weren’t taking [the proposals] seriously,” a guild source told Deadline. “This is how it should work if we want to get to a good and fair deal.”

No word if any further talks have been set, though the expectation is the AMPTP will response “soon-ish,” as an industry vet said, which will determine the calendar.

On another track, while nothing is final yet it seems both sides may have reached “a comfortable place,” according to a studio source, when it comes to a streaming financial revenue share for performers, though details remain scarce.

As has become common since the parties restart talks October 24 in-person and virtually, neither SAG-AFTRA nor the AMPTP responded to requests for comment from Deadline today. If and when they do, we will update this post.

Actors Strike SAG-AFTRA rules

On the streets, the picket line was down today at Fox and continued to be suspended at Universal, but guild members were marching at Netflix, Sony, Disney, Paramount, Warner Bros Discovery and Amazon. Crabtree-Ireland showed up at the Culver City headquarters of Amazon mid-morning to walk the line for a bit.  

With the WGA going on strike in early May and SAG-AFTRA taking to the pickets in mid-July, it is estimated the labor actions have cost the California economy more than $6.5 billion to date as well as 45,000 entertainment-sector jobs, with many working families not seeing a steady paycheck in six months.

Earlier today, Paramount Global CFO Naveen Chopra said during the company’s earnings call that the strikes’ financial impact on the company amounts to “nearly $60 million of strike-related idle costs. These are incremental expenses incurred to retain production capabilities while the strike is ongoing. These costs impacted both our TV media and film entertainment segments.”

On the same call Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish further expounded on the strikes’ impact on the company, adding, “you saw that we recently made some changes to our film slate which has been impacted by the continued SAG-AFTRA strike. And while late-night is back up and running, the scripted side of TV is still strike impacted.”

“Obviously, we all hope to be back at work soon,” he said.

Athough frequently briefed, the Paramount Global boss has not been directly involved in the negotiations this past week.

Participating last week, the core CEO Gang of Four – NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley, Warner Bros Discovery’s David Zaslav, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and Disney’s Bob Iger – have not been a part of talks in recent days, with Crabtree-Ireland and Lombardini taking point. It remains to be seen whether the CEOs will return to talks at any juncture going forward, as they’re being briefed by their legal teams who are taking lead. However, Langley, Zaslav, Sarandos and Iger remain on standby for any last-minute Zooms and meet-ups, we’re told.

Studios are anxiety ridden, yearning to jumpstart feature and TV production especially on those movies that were shutdown mid-way through shooting, i.e., Deadpool 3, Mission: Impossible 8 and Gladiator 2 among others. While there are only so many shooting days to be had in the remaining holiday-filled two months of 2023, there’s work that can be accomplished that will ensure some tentpoles make their 2024 theatrical release dates. Already, on whatever footage filmmakers have their hands on, they’re in the cutting room, editing, getting ready before IATSE talks begin next year.

One thing is for certain, all sides tell us: the progress made by scribes and actors in their dealmaking will set the floor for IATSE and Teamsters talks next year.

Both IATSE and the Teamsters have been frequent and vocal supporters of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA, stressing union solidarity. And from the guilds to the studios and streamers and individuals, everybody is worried about what AI could mean to them and the industry  

Crabtree-Ireland told Deadline at New York Comic-Con last month that when it comes to AI, “the kinds of guardrails we’re looking to put around this technology aren’t dependent upon the development of the technology.” He added of SAG-AFTRA’s goals, “The idea of a performer having the right to informed consent of the use of their image and likeness in the creation of a digital replica — any and every performer should have that right in any form of technology including AI and AI tools that have been developed for that purpose.” 

“So, I think the guardrails we’re putting around fair compensation, informed consent, those are things that can grow with the industry and the state of technology,” Crabtree-Ireland said. 

As much as top talent will be protected, key for SAG-AFTRA has been ensuring that extras and performers at the bottom of the call sheet have AI rights as well in contracts with the studios. One specific demand the guild has come back to again and again is that its members’ likeness won’t be duplicated an infinite number of times without due compensation. At present, the basic notion the guild has put forward is that AI will be used and paid on a project-by-project basis to prevent abuse and maintain acting as a viable profession for the vast majority of SAG-AFTRA’s 160,000 members.

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