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Gabrielle Carteris vs. Matthew Modine in SAG-AFTRA election. The big issue? Streaming

Wendy Lee, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

LOS ANGELES -- As members of Hollywood's largest union vote to elect a new president in the coming weeks, actors and other performers are already signaling their worries about getting left behind by the streaming revolution.

At the forefront of concerns among many of the 160,000 members of SAG-AFTRA is that the existing contract between actors and Hollywood studios is outdated and could cause actor pay to be eroded as more people watch shows on streaming services -- where viewership numbers are not usually made public.

The issue is expected to be pivotal as the union negotiates a new film and TV contract in 2020 and with the launching of new streaming services, such as Disney+, Apple TV+, and HBO Max.

"The stakes are high in terms of the disruption in this industry and how the economic benefits are being redistributed," said David Smith, professor of economics at Pepperdine University's Graziadio Business School.

The fiercely contested election has pitted incumbent president Gabrielle Carteris, known for her work as an actress on the 1990s teen drama "Beverly Hills, 90210," against veteran actor Matthew Modine ("Stranger Things"), who is backed by a faction that has long advocated for a tougher stance in negotiations with the studios. Election results will be released on Aug. 28.

In an interview, Carteris, who has been in her role since 2016, said she will push to improve the current film and TV contract that expires June 30.

 

Carteris, 58, touted the union's new contract with Netflix, which gave performers more money on higher-budget movies made by the Los Gatos, Calif.-based streaming service.

Analysts say the deal could provide the union with more leverage in its negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, a trade association that represents the industry's major TV and movie producers. In the event of a strike, union members could still work with Netflix because it's not part of the alliance.

Carteris said the Netflix deal would help pave the way for some improvements the union hopes to make in its upcoming negotiation with the AMPTP, but declined to give specifics.

"This negotiation with Netflix is really important for the membership," Carteris said. "It's something that speaks definitely to the future. It's in many ways a coup for us."

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