SAG-AFTRA Negotiations: Where Are We Now?

Max Kingsley

DISCLAIMER: This blog post was finalized on November 3rd and does not reflect any updates thereafter.

SAG-AFTRA has now been on strike for over 100 days, making this the organization’s longest and most drawn-out strike in history. After months of witnessing our favorite actors, comedians, and directors picket outside major movie studios, we are all likely wondering the same thing: When will this strike be over?

Despite social and financial pressures, negotiations remain ongoing between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP, the entertainment industry’s official collective bargaining representative. On October 31st, the union’s chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland led direct virtual talks with AMPTP president Carol Lombardini, while breakout groups of lawyers and specialists delved into the details on specific items.[1] The union’s teams of negotiators and attorneys are attempting to devise a collective bargaining agreement with two major requirements.

First, SAG-AFTRA wants to guarantee that actors receive fair and adequate compensation for their work on streaming platforms. Its proposed revenue-sharing scheme, which has been vehemently rejected by the AMPTP, seeks to multiply the number of global subscribers on a platform each quarter by the percentage of content viewed on that platform—a number amounting to less than fifty-seven cents per subscriber per year.[2] The money generated by this arrangement would then go into a fund to be managed by SAG-AFTRA representatives, whose trustees would determine how to distribute the money. This arrangement would cost studios around $500 million per year, amounting to almost four times the $126 million in residuals paid out to SAG-AFTRA members in 2022.[3] Many industry executives are intensely opposed to the idea, with Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos calling the proposal “a bridge too far.”[4] But is it really? According to USC Marshall School of Business adjunct professor Sanjay Sharma, at fifty-seven cents per subscriber, this sum would not be the “untenable economic burden” that the AMPTP represented it as, but instead, would be equivalent to the amount of revenue lost when one block-buster film fails at the box office.[5]

Second, SAG-AFTRA asserts that studios must agree to receive informed consent from performers before displaying their images using artificial intelligence. While the informed consent doctrine is most frequently applied in the medical malpractice context, here, it functions quite similarly. Informed consent places emphasis on autonomous decision-making and stresses respect for the individual; it ensures that individuals are given adequate information to make a knowledgeable decision about their future. SAG-AFTRA is keen on preserving the autonomy of its members in regard to the use of their image; they hope to ensure that actors give informed consent when agreeing to the use of their likeness through artificial intelligence, and they seek to require separate bargaining for AI for background actors, which they claim must take place at the time of use.[6] Union chief negotiator Crabtree-Ireland has stated that the studios’ current position with regards to AI is unacceptable, as it would allow background actors to sign away their likeness rights on future projects at the time of initial employment even though they would not know how their image could be used— a phenomenon he coins “fictional consent”.[7] While the AMPTP has previously verbally agreed to the union’s AI terms in the past, the organization has not responded to the revised AI proposal that the guild sent over last Wednesday[8].

Thus, although hopes are high that the parties may finally come to a consensus within the coming weeks, nothing remains for certain. In the meantime, hundreds of projects remain on the back burner and thousands of SAG-AFTRA members, as well as their attorney, agents, and other talent representatives, hang in limbo, waiting for an agreement to be reached so that they can regain their livelihoods.


[1] Anthony D’Alessandro, No Trick, No Treat: SAG-AFTRA & AMPTP End Talks for Day, Will Resume Wednesday, deadline (Oct. 31, 2023), [] [].

[2] Katie Kilkenny, How Audacious Is SAG-AFTRA’s Subscriber Fee Ask, Really?, hollywood rep. (Oct. 20, 2023), [] [].

[3] Id.

[4] Peter White, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos Reveals Why Talks Broke Down with SAG-AFTRA, deadline (Oct. 12, 2023), [] [].

[5] Kilkenny, supra note 2.

[6] Gene Maddaus, AMPTP Says It Agreed To SAG-AFTRA Demand for ‘Informed Consent’ on AI Use, variety (July 21, 2023), [] [].

[7] Id.

[8] Dominic Patten & Anthony D’Alessandro, SAG-AFTRA Awaits Studios’ Response To Latest AI Proposals on Day Of No Formal Talks, deadline (November 2, 2023), [] [].