The new collective bargaining agreement struck between the major Hollywood studios and the Screen Actors Guild may have an impact on the longevity of future shows, according to one Walt Disney executive.
The increasingly complex terms gives actors more flexibility to move on to projects and makes it more costly to retain them for future seasons, which could lead to shows ending prematurely, warned Grant Michaelson, vice president of business affairs for Disney’s branded television unit, on a panel at CES 2024 discussing the future of streaming.
While this isn’t a problem for a show like Stranger Things, when a studio will bend over backwards to ensure the program keeps going, it could have a more tangible effect on shows that are just modestly popular, or are considered “on the bubble” in terms of viewership. The new deal is an added wrinkle to a period where networks and streaming services are already aggressively canceling shows and culling budgets.
Netflix reportedly reduced the number of shows it put out in 2023 by more than 100. Last year, Paramount+ had pared back the number of Star Trek shows on its service, and on Wednesday, Amazon reportedly laid off hundreds of people from Prime Video and MGM Studios.
Michaelson pointed to the new “windows” of time negotiated in the SAG contracts that are shorter than before. The windows essentially lock an actor to an existing project, and once it passes, they’re free to move on to another show or movie. Because they’re shorter, it means less time to review whether a show should be renewed.
“There are a lot of shows,” he told Cord Cutters News after the panel ended.
According to the SAG collective bargaining agreement, the option for a series regular lasts at least one year after the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers is notified when a contract is signed. Other types of performers get options that can last 18 months, but can be extended for a fee.
Michaelson said he was “thrilled” the strikes are over, but said the new collective bargaining agreements are “increasingly complex.”
“We’re beginning to digest how they’ll change the deals for directors, writers, and actors,” he said. “They’re significant.”
Michaelson noted that he was speaking specifically about the actors’ contract, and hadn’t fully reviewed the deals that were separately struck with the directors’ and writers’ unions.
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