The group that bargains on behalf of the studios issued a point-by-point response on Friday to SAG-AFTRA, arguing that the union walked away from a deal with more than $1 billion in additional wages, residuals and pension and health contributions.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers also argued that it has accepted the union’s demand for “informed consent” on the use of artificial intelligence — which has become one of the major issues in the week-old strike.
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s top negotiator, alleged on July 13 that the studios want to scan background actors and replicate their likenesses “for the rest of eternity” without consent. The AMPTP has adamantly said that is false, and that its proposal includes both consent and compensation.
SAG-AFTRA is not trying to ban AI outright, as some high-profile members stand to profit from licensing their likeness rights. But the union is insisting that performers must give “informed consent” and that the right to use AI on additional projects must be separately bargained.
Crabtree-Ireland has said that the studios’ position is unacceptable because it would allow background actors to sign away their likeness rights on future projects at the time of initial employment, when they would not know how their image could be used and would have no meaningful opportunity to refuse.
“That’s not real consent. That is fictional consent,” Crabtree-Ireland said in a Zoom call with SAG-AFTRA members on Tuesday. “If you want to get hired and you have to grant consent to use of your digital replica for eternity, your choice is accept the job and accept those terms, or refuse the job and you don’t get hired. That is a dilemma that is not fair for our members.”
But in its statement on Friday, the AMPTP said that it has agreed to informed consent, including separate bargaining for AI for background actors, which “must take place at the time of use.” The AMPTP stated that it conveyed that agreement verbally to the union during bargaining on July 12.
Crabtree-Ireland said in a statement Friday afternoon that he stands by his prior characterization.
“We will respond to this latest round of AMPTP spin when we have had a chance to review their document,” he said. “We unequivocally stand by the accuracy of everything we have said regarding the proposals.”
In the document, the studio group also explained its opposition to the union’s proposal for a share of streaming revenue. SAG-AFTRA has said that members should get 2% of the revenue attributed to each show.
The streamers have refused to release viewership data, so the union is proposing to assess value based on estimates from a third-party data company, Parrot Analytics.
The AMPTP said that its negotiators repeatedly conveyed their “fundamental objections” to the idea and asked that it be removed from discussions as it was a “roadblock” to getting a deal.
The studio group argued that the production companies — which would be obligated to pay the actors under the proposal — are not the ones that receive streaming revenue.
“The Union is proposing that performers share in the rewards of a successful show, without bearing any of the risk,” the studio group stated. “The Union proposes to ‘share’ in success, but not in failure. That is not sharing.”
The AMPTP argued that an “alternate path” will be needed to get an agreement. It also noted that it has offered a 76% increase in foreign streaming residuals on the biggest platforms, matching the deal that was ratified by the Directors Guild of America.
The studio group went into extensive detail on many other issues, only some of which have figured in the public discourse about the strike.
SAG-AFTRA began picketing at the studios on July 14, joining the Writers Guild of America, which has been on strike since May 2.
There has been no sign from any of the parties of a move to restart talks. SAG-AFTRA leadership has said that it is open to resuming negotiations at any point, but that the studios have said it may be “a while.”
“While we have made some progress, the AMPTP stonewalled us on many issues,” Crabtree-Ireland said in the statement Friday. “On the three core issues that we have been talking about, the companies have not done what they need to do to treat performers fairly and we are not going to have a deal until they do.”
The three “core” issues are AI, streaming revenue sharing, and increases in minimums. SAG-AFTRA is demanding increases of 11%, 4% and 4% over the three years of the contract, which it says is necessary to keep pace with inflation. The AMPTP is offering 5%, 4% and 3.5%, which it says is “historic by any measure,” and which matches the DGA terms.