SAG-AFTRA members have voted overwhelmingly – 87.68% to 12.32% – to ratify a new TV animation contract covering network, basic cable and streaming shows.
Animation, and the voice-over work provided by actors, is one of the few sectors of the entertainment industry that didn’t grind to a halt during the coronavirus shutdown. The terms of the new three-year pact, which had been unanimously approved by the union’s executive committee, are retroactive to July 1, 2020. The union did not provide the actual vote totals.
“This is a strong, future-focused agreement with significant gains for our members,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “It applies scale wages to more productions, lowers budget thresholds for half-hour HBSVOD programs and delivers additional money for the use of interstitial programs in new media.”
“The industry is changing, and our contracts are changing with it,” said Ray Rodriguez, the union’s chief contracts officer. “Building off of our successful TV/Theatrical negotiations, the new animation contracts position members to grow residuals from subscription streaming services — the area of greatest growth.”
The new deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which builds on the union’s recently ratified live-action film and TV contract, includes:
• Wage increases of 2.5% in the first year and 3% in each of the second and third years;
• A one percentage point increase in employer contributions to the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan, with optional wage diversions in the second and third years that will allow the union to shift 0.5% from the wage hikes to the union’s struggling health plan or to the SAG Pension Plan/AFTRA Retirement Fund;
• A 26% improvement in residuals for high-budget animated programs made for subscription streaming services like Amazon and Hulu; and
• A reduction of the budget threshold – from $550,000 to $500,000 – that triggers high-budget coverage for half-hour animated programs made for subscription streaming services.
The agreement also incorporates the change to the broadcast syndication residual from a fixed residual to a revenue-based residual at 6% of distributor’s gross receipts – the same formula that applies to content moving to basic cable. The union says that this new formula was the key concession it made that paid for the increase in streaming residuals, an exchange that positions voice actors to grow their residuals in the fastest growing area of their work while increasing opportunities for animated programs to be exhibited in broadcast syndication – a market that has been in a steady decline for years.
The new deal also includes a breakthrough in the requirement to pay scale for animated programs made for new media. Animated programs made for subscription streaming services that do not qualify as “high-budget” – because they do not reach the minimum required runtime of 20 minutes or do not reach the new budget threshold of $500,000 – will now be required to pay scale if they are at least 11 minutes long and have a budget of at least $25,000 per minute.
That means that 11-minute animated programs made for subscription streaming services – a standard length for some shows – will need to pay scale at budget levels as low as $275,000. The new deal also includes an animation-specific gain in payments for “interstitial bits” – animated programs less than two minutes in length – increasing the required cycle payments between 5.4% and 20% in exchange for including new media as a permitted exhibition platform.
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