SAG-AFTRA’s Fran Drescher on Securing New Streaming Fund: ‘It Was Essential’

It took weeks for SAG-AFTRA to break through an impasse over a streaming fund that president Fran Drescher said was “essential” to a new contract, she explained in an interview with TheWrap the day after the actors 118-day strike ended.  

“It was essential that we came out of these talks with a new stream of money from these [streaming] platforms,” Drescher said. “When it comes to compensation, streaming did not fit the traditional linear residual structure, and we needed to find a solution to that.”

On Oct. 11, the talks between SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers seemed to fall apart when the studios broke off talks over the guild’s proposed revenue sharing system. The proposal called for streaming services to share a portion of their revenue with the guild, which would in turn share the funds from that revenue sharing with actors whose work appeared on those services.

The AMPTP, which was pushing for SAG-AFTRA to accept a bonus structure similar to the one agreed to with the Writers Guild of America, called the revenue sharing system an “untenable economic burden.”

“It was very much a surprise to us, because we sent our proposal to them expecting a response, and two hours later we were told that they were going to pause talks,” Drescher said.

Two weeks later, talks resumed after a discussion between Drescher, guild chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, and Disney CEO Bob Iger. As discussions continued, Drescher told the CEOs and AMPTP that while SAG-AFTRA was willing to compromise on some form of bonus structure for streaming, the guild was holding its ground on establishing a fund that would allow actors that do not appear on shows that draw enough viewers to qualify for bonuses to take part in the increased compensation.

“We were willing to accept a new money stream based on their solution, the bonuses, rather than our solution,” Drescher said. “Since the nature of negotiation is to be fluid, we entertained it with the caveat that we needed the fund to give us the freedom to use that money to benefit a wider net of members.”

More details will come when SAG-AFTRA unveils the full contract on Friday afternoon following a national board meeting. But Drescher and guild insiders told TheWrap that the new streaming bonus structure will establish a fund run by trustees from SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP member studios, similar to the health and pension funds for the actors guild, with the money for that fund coming from a portion of the bonuses earned by high-performing streaming movies and TV shows.

Like the health and pension funds, how much gets contributed by the studios to this fund through the bonus structure will likely be a major part of future negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP. But the fact that it is now established was considered by Drescher to be one of the biggest victories for her negotiating committee from this new contract.

“This is an ongoing thing, but what is most important is that now there is money for actors that there never was.”

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