Discover What SAG’s $40 Million Streaming Bonus Means for Actors
• SAG’s $40 million streaming bonus splits money between performers on successful streaming shows and a fund that benefits all other members of the streaming industry.
• The bonus is estimated to be worth $120 million over three years and is expected to generate additional funds as projected by the guild.
• 75 percent of the bonus goes directly to principal performers, while 25 percent goes into a fund that benefits other qualifying members.
• Residual payments for actors working on streaming platforms have increased from $2,850 to $6,059 per episode (with bonuses).
• This strategic move ensures fair compensation for actors in this increasingly popular medium.
Are you curious about the monetary impact of SAG’s new streaming bonus? We have the answers! Guild president Fran Drescher refers to it as a “streaming participation bonus,” while some studio-side individuals have dubbed it a “Robin Hood fund.”
The goal of this bonus, as emphasized by guild leaders during the strike and the recent press conference, is to ensure that actors receive fair compensation. The bonus splits money between performers on the top streaming shows and a fund that benefits everyone else in the streaming industry.
SAG estimates the bonus pool to be worth $120 million, spread over the three years of the contract. While that $40 million figure may sound impressive, it’s important to put it into perspective. It’s less than the budget for “The Fabelmans,” lower than what Dwayne Johnson could earn from his upcoming Amazon holiday movie, and about the same as the 2022 pay package of Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav.
So, what does this mean for actors trying to make a living in Hollywood? By dividing $40 million among 160,000 members, we arrive at around $250 per person before taxes. However, not all members qualify for the streaming bonus.
According to SAG-AFTRA executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the bonus is for individuals working on made-for-streaming projects. Theatrical films or broadcast shows that later appear on streaming platforms do not qualify.
While the exact number of qualifying actors remains uncertain, Crabtree-Ireland estimates it to be between “thousands” and “teens.” This suggests a potentially larger paycheck for actors without previously received recognition for their work in the streaming industry. These individuals have been stuck on streaming shows with only a few episodes and long hiatuses between seasons.
Here’s how it breaks down: When a streaming show achieves success by reaching over 20 percent of a streamer’s U.S. subscribers within the first 90 days, it becomes eligible for a 100 percent bonus on top of the existing residual. For comparison, writers receive a 50 percent bonus. This arrangement is expected to generate the additional $40 million annually as projected by the guild.
Of this bonus, 75 percent goes directly to the principal performers on the successful show, who already receive a fixed streaming residual. The remaining 25 percent goes into a fund that benefits other qualifying members working on streaming projects, with some contributions going towards benefit plans. The specifics of how this is allocated and paid will be determined collaboratively by the guild and the employers.
Calculating residuals can be complex, taking factors such as subscriber count, program length, and role type into account. For instance, as a weekly guest star on a half-hour episode on platforms like Netflix, Hulu, or Disney+, your first residual under the 2020 agreement was approximately $2,850. Under the new deal, it increases to $3,462. With the viewership bonus, your first residual would be $6,059 ($3,462 + ($3,462 x .75)).
In summary, SAG’s $40 million streaming bonus aims to ensure fair compensation for actors in the streaming industry, benefiting both top performers and the rest of the workforce. Although the amount per person may not seem substantial, it represents a step towards recognizing the value of actors’ contributions in this evolving landscape.