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Streamers, Residuals & AI Spotlighted


EXCLUSIVE: A revamp of residuals, artificial intelligence provisions and an end to the misuse of “special stipulations” by the American giants lead the British actors union’s claim for its new film and TV agreements with PACT.

We can reveal that Equity has in the past couple of weeks submitted the claim to the producer trade body and is preparing to begin negotiations over a new contract that will govern the vast majority of UK TV series and indie movies – including those made by the streamers – for the next two to three years. The TV and film agreements are separate and Equity has long desired to bring them together, although this will likely not be realized in the near future.

Equity General Secretary Paul Fleming said relations between the union and Pact are solid and initial chatter around potential strike action has dimmed. The pair will meet once a fortnight for the next two months with the aim of having the deal signed off by the end of September, he said.

Equity has since the turn of the year been crowdsourcing its 40,000-strong member base in order to compile the claim, which has five demands. In an email to members, which Deadline has seen, Equity said the negotiations “could not be taking place at a more important time.” “Following on from the obstacles that underpinned last year’s SAG-AFTRA industrial action, we too will be fighting for our members and demanding better in film and TV,” it added. “If you all stand alone, PACT can ignore you. But if we all stand together, we can demand better and win.” Beyond saying it is consulting with its member base, which comprises dozens of scripted producers, PACT declined comment.

Equity’s five demands are:

  1. Pay – substantially increasing minimum fees   
  2. Secondary payments – reforming royalty and residual payments so that artists receive a fair share in an ever changing media landscape. 
  3. AI – regulating the use of generative artificial intelligence in production and fighting for clear protections for members.  
  4. Casting – codifying our self-tapes guidelines to establish fairer methods of casting.  
  5. Fair contracts –  tackling the misuse of special stipulations which are being used to undermine the collective agreement. Ensuring contracts have key terms for suitable hair and make-up provisions including for members of all ethnicities and cultures.  

Some of the demands have long been gestating and there’s plenty for the negotiators to get their teeth into.

On secondary payments, or residuals, which were a major sticking point during the SAG-AFTRA action last year in the States, Equity is seeking to revamp compensation to focus on how long a show or movie is licensed to be on a particular platform, with a move away from a model that rewards viewership, Fleming told Deadline.

“We want more money for your work being exploited for longer,” he said. “Considering the way streaming is going, we think this will disincentivize exploitation while giving actors a rise in pay.”

Fleming described Equity’s residuals blueprint as a “hybrid between the [current] British, American and Canadian models.” In the U.S., SAG’s three-year contract with the AMPTP, which came after a months-long strike, focuses on a success-based model, with a bonus structure that rewards shows that trigger a certain viewership threshold.

Fleming said Equity’s demand is more complex than “treating residuals like they are one or the other.” “This is about measuring success in a more nuanced way and a more nuanced way as a starting point is looking at license periods.”

With the American giants in mind, Equity is attempting to tackle the misuse of “special stipulations” from American networks and streamers.

American buyers including the streamers pay actors higher rates than UK broadcasters, Fleming explained, but with these higher rates can come demands in areas such as availability, holiday pay and sick leave, which Equity is trying to tighten the rules around.

“What happens at the minute is that Americans offer 20 times our minimum rate but then make demands,” said Fleming. “Of course getting paid lots of money is no bad thing but it can lead to sharp practice, which then leads to a deterioration in working conditions and an increase in precarity. This [part of the claim] isn’t controversial with Pact as a principle but could be controversial with the streamers and that is why they may want to be at the table.”

Fleming said “special stipulations” had not initially been planned to be front and center of the negotiations but were Equity members’ “biggest bugbear” when they were crowdsourced.

Whether the streamers and other American buyers come directly to the table to meet with Equity over these demands remains to be seen. As we revealed several months back in our Equity-Pact primer, the likes of Netflix, Disney, Apple and Comcast-owned Sky have approached Equity negotiations for the past decade in the form of ‘side letters’, which effectively takes the deal with Pact and adds a small premium for their original commissions, meaning that they don’t negotiate directly. Deadline understands Netflix’s deal adds a circa-25% pay premium on top of Pact’s deal, for example, although each ‘side letter’ is tailored to the relevant player’s subscriber model and is complex. Other streamers such as Amazon Prime Video and Paramount still use the Equity Pact deal.

“We will soon be renegotiating the side letter agreements with streaming platforms: Apple, Netflix, and Disney+,” said the Equity email to members. “The terms that will be negotiated will then be reflected in Equity contracts across film and television in the next few years.” Netflix, Apple, Disney and Sky declined comment on whether they will come directly to the negotiating table.

Along with “special stipulations,” the ‘Fair contracts’ section of Equity’s claim also urges an end to a lack of “suitable hair and make-up provisions including for members of all ethnicities and cultures” in contracts, which was raised at Cannes by stars including Lashana Lynch and Naomie Harris.

AI provisions

Elsewhere, AI provisions, as expected, are a cornerstone of the claim.

Equity has led the way in AI research in areas such as synthesization – the potential for actors’ faces to be cloned and used in other shows – and Fleming said the union’s claim aims to “set parameters” while “breaking the PR myth of AI” in a nuanced fashion.

For example, the claim is tailored to the implications of generative AI for different categories of actor including dubbing and supporting artists.

Equity strikes separate deals with the BBC and ITV over some shows that fall outside the Pact agreement and we revealed recently that AI has been central to the ITV negotiation, which Fleming said has almost been signed off.

Equity’s final two demands are around pay and casting. We understand the former will seek a circa-7% pay rise on movies for this year and a minimum 5% the following one (an increase of 7% for 2024, 3.5% for 2025 and 3% for 2026 has already been agreed on the TV side), with a desire for pay to rise above inflation in order to “narrow the gap between the market rate and its impact,” Fleming said.

Once again mirroring action in the U.S., Deadline revealed several weeks back that Equity would demand guidelines on self-tape auditions be inserted into collective film and TV agreements. This came after we reported on agents sending clients illegitimate invites for self-tape auditions. Actors have long demanded that the practice be better regulated.

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