Studios Deliver New Contract Offer To SAG-AFTRA; More Talks Set For Weekend

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EXCLUSIVE: A new proposal from the studios to try to end the 113-day-old SAG-AFTRA strike has just been delivered to the guild.

The actors guild and the AMPTP have set further negotiations for this weekend, we hear, with studio CEOs expected to participate directly. Anticipation that this could mean a new three-year contract is at hand within the next 48 hours should be “dialed down,” a well-positioned guild source said Friday, as SAG-AFTRA brass must fully review the document before even getting back to the bargaining table.

The latest developments come at the end of a tense week that saw the tone of talks shift toward pessimism as SAG-AFTRA awaited a formal response to its most recent counters. A studio insider late tonight dismissed the anxiety and said the extended time was simply a matter of the powers-that-be wanting to put a full package on the table before the guild.

“We’re going to make them an offer, then we’ll see where we all go from there,” an exec close to talks said late this afternoon.

The new proposal also comes amid leaks and rumors ricocheting around town earlier Friday that the studios are on a tight deadline for a deal to save the rest of the TV season and the 2024 film schedule.

With “fluid” replaced by “cautious optimism” as the new drumbeat for contract talks over the past several days, the insider pointed out the “urgency” to find a resolution. At the same time, individuals with knowledge of events add that any notion of the latest proposal being the best and final offer from the AMPTP is “really premature,” as one put it.

In the lead-pp to the studios proposal getting to SAG-AFTRA, there were also conversations between the sides today and Thursday. As one adamant insider insisted, “they’re all back-channeling.” 

Although Deadline exclusively reported that the two sides did not meet Thursday, in fact SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP reps did have a conversation later that night. However, despite the guild making known its frustrations with the studios’ elongated response time, that communication did not result in a formal reply from the studios to either the guild’s latest AI proposal of more than two days ago, or the “comprehensive counter” of six days ago.

The two sides have been in a renewed round of talks since October 24, both in-person and virtually.

As they were for the final and successful sessions with the WGA back in September, NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley, Disney’s Bob Iger, Warner Bros Discovery’s David Zaslav and Netflix’s Ted Sarandos have been participating in this round of discussions with SAG-AFTRA to varying degrees. The CEOs Gang of Four have been deeply involved in crafting the response to SAG-AFTRA’s proposals and are expected to be further involced either in person or virtual with guild president Fran Drescher, chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland and others for at least the start of more talks over the next few days

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, Fran Drescher, Ted Sarandos, Bob Iger, David Zaslav & Donna Langley

At the same time, similar to what we saw with the WGA when that guild was on strike there has been a constant sniping and whispering campaign against the SAG-AFTRA leadership from the other side. Additionally, the perception within the guild is the AMPTP have employed a divide and conquer tactic between leadership and members — moves that seem to have been dramatically unsuccessful thus far.

Earlier today, SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher posted on Instagram, “TGIF! Let’s hope the amptp ceo’s resurface with a seal the deal counter!”

One executive source tells us there is a demand by SAG-AFTRA for stunt men and stunt women to have the ability to decide what their digital stunt doubles look like. That’s “a decision typically made by directors” per one insider, adding it’s simply out of the guild’s jurisdiction. Another studio source tells us that there are asks by the actors guild to limit the number of digital extras that can be used in a given scene at any one time. One consequence of this would be to retain more real-life actors on screen in the background.

On one level, the studios’ delay in responding to SAG-AFTRA’s counter and AI proposal was a bit of headscratcher as the conglomerates are openly anxious to restart TV and feature production, they tell us.

There have been whispers that the New Line horror movie, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, is headed to the Max streaming service after the pic was pulled from its post-Labor Day 2022 theatrical release. That would be a first for the David Zaslav-led Warner Bros Discovery, which has sworn not to engage in the old administration’s tactic of direct-to-streaming movies. “Max really needs content for next year,” said one industry source about the scarcity of product the streamer is facing. Ditto for the theatrical schedule. The moving of three big tentpoles — Mission: Impossible 8, Disney/Pixar’s Elio, and Disney’s Snow White — to 2025 could result in an estimated $1.5 billion hit to next year’s box office returns.

On Thursday during Paramount Global’s quarterly earnings call, shareholders were informed that the company took a $60 million hit in “strike-related idle costs.” CEO Bob Bakish on the call noted that the studio’s 2024 theatrical film schedule was shaken up and that “the scripted side of TV is still strike impacted.”

That’s small change compared to what California and entertainment workers are experiencing in the fallout of labor unrest. The state’s economy has lost an estimated $6.5 billion due to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes shutting vast majority of production down. The entertainment industry has seen north of 45,000 jobs lost since the scribes went on strike in early May and the actors guild hit the picket lines in mid-July.

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