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What You Need to Know About the New SAG-AFTRA Agreement: Streaming Bonuses and Payment Distribution Fund


With the 118-day strike finally resolved and a new collective bargaining agreement obtained, there is a lot to digest and understand about how things will be moving forward. With that in mind, Casting Networks is producing a series of articles in which we will break down particular parts of the new agreement and discuss how it affects you.

This entry focuses on streaming bonuses and the payment distribution fund.

Accountability

One of the issues that has come up with the rise of streaming services is the lack of any accountability on behalf of the streaming services when one of their shows or movies becomes successful.

This was a major sticking point for the union, even if the streaming service brought out certain residuals as part of the project’s budget.

This was how some projects happened, precisely so that the services did not have to pay anything further once the project was completed.

With the increasing number of projects financed by and appearing on the streaming services, it was clear that some kind of bonus system had to be put into play.

Setting residuals aside — there will be a follow-up entry about that — the concern was that even A-list actors were not getting the kind of payout they might get with a film using a standard theatrical release.

There were also concerns with taking care of those performers who are not at the top of the call sheet and the creation of some kind of fund to ensure a fair disbursement of bonus money rewarding high viewership.

The results are pretty straightforward but worth examining.

The Bonus

For high-budget subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) seasons of a series, miniseries or film, a bonus is paid if at least 20% of domestic subscribers watch in the first 90 days of release.

There is no specified definition of what makes a series, miniseries or film “high budget,” but one imagines that it will not be terribly confusing.

Payment Distribution

The performer will receive 75% of the bonus, while the remaining 25% will go into the Streaming Payment Distribution Fund.

This fund will be overseen by trustees jointly appointed by the two sides, who will decide on how to spend the money given to the fund.

The fund itself is still subject to legal review and certain conditions but will be resolved to both sides’ satisfaction.

Payment of the full bonus is due 60 days after the end of the quarter, which is defined as the completion of the 90-day measuring period for domestic views.

Ultimately, this is only part of a new accountability meant to keep the streaming services honest and share the wealth. A union request per subscriber fee failed, but the combination of this bonus system to reward high viewership and the new residual protections goes a long way to restoring the safety net that fell away over the last dozen or so years.

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