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SAG-AFTRA National Board Approves Netflix Agreement

Pixabay
(Image credit: Pixabay)

LOS ANGELES—The SAG-AFTRA National Board has voted overwhelmingly to approve a successor agreement with Netflix. The contract will now be sent to the membership for ratification, with the National Board recommending a “yes” vote.

The agreement includes major improvements in options and exclusivity rules for series regulars, the union said. It creates a new “conflict-free window” of at least three months during each season, in which performers may accept a permitted appearance on another show or network without first confirming availability and potential scheduling with Netflix. 

The agreement also includes significant changes benefiting background performers, stunt coordinators and dubbing performers, and significantly expands SAG-AFTRA’s coverage of Spanish-language dubbing, the union said. 

SAG-AFTRA reached the groundbreaking first, direct union agreement covering Netflix programming in 2019. The agreement was set to expire June 30, but was extended through the conclusion of negotiations.

Bargaining on a successor contract began June 27 and continued intermittently through Aug. 2. The Netflix agreement applies to scripted, dramatic episodic and feature-length productions made by Netflix Studios, LLC.

“I was proud to chair these talks and to be in the room as it happened. I can confirm that we got a darn good deal! We advanced significant improvements to options and exclusivity terms, allowing actors with short pickups to have more freedom to work other jobs and ensuring shorter hold periods between pickups,” said SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher. 

“Testimony from our members offered compelling and convincing arguments in favor of unlocking the shackles the streaming platform had on actors,” Drescher added. “Everyone was represented and we won unprecedented favorable advancements. It took a long time, a great deal of pushing past their comfort zone and now that it’s all said and done, the committee and staff have a deal they feel most satisfied with.

“Journeymen actors, who are often squeezed in the middle, benefit the most under these new terms, and we also made great strides for background performers,” Drescher concluded.

“As the landscape of the industry has changed, streaming has become one of the most important areas of focus,” said national executive director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. “Streaming is both the present and the future of entertainment, and this agreement reflects that reality. Our team fought hard for gains across the board, and members from background performers to series regulars will feel that benefit. I am particularly proud of our expansion of Spanish-language dubbing coverage, which results in equal pay for equal work regardless of the language used. It’s another huge step forward in our fight for equity, which is also symbolized by the addition of a holiday acknowledging Juneteenth.”

In addition to enhanced and strengthened options and exclusivity rules, the contract establishes a new Albuquerque Background Actor Zone within a 30-mile radius around Albuquerque City Hall. This represents the first new background zone in 24 years, the union said. 

For the first time under any agreement, stunt coordinators will be paid a fixed residual for the continued exhibition on Netflix of a high-budget streaming program produced under the Netflix Agreement.

In addition, the Netflix Dubbing Agreement has been expanded to include dubbing into Spanish. The terms for Spanish-language dubbing will match the terms that apply to English dubbing.

Significantly, Netflix and SAG-AFTRA have agreed that Netflix will join the multiemployer bargaining unit represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Future agreements with the streaming giant will be done concurrently with AMPTP negotiations.

Certain issues are covered by industry wide agreements with the AMPTP and will be addressed in upcoming negotiations, including wage rate (scale) increases and the streaming residuals structure, among others, the union said. 

SAG-AFTRA represents approximately 160,000 actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists, influencers and other entertainment and media professionals.

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.