Later today, the Screen Actors Guild is voting on if it should go on strike following a failure to come to an agreement with the studios, which include Disney, over several different issues, including the use of AI and about the residuals from streaming platforms. These issues are also some of the core issues facing the Writers Guild Of America, which has been on strike since May.
During a recent interview with Disney CEO Bob Iger, he was asked about the potential impact of the strikes and about the union’s demands. Bob explained how he finds the strikes “very disturbing,” and will have a “very, very damaging effect on the whole business.”
“This is the worst time in the world to add to that disruption and there’s a level of expectation that they [SAG-AFTRA and the WGA] have that is just not realistic.”
One of the key aspects of the actor’s and writers’ strikes is about residuals, which is how much people make from shows when they’ve been released on other platforms, including linear television, DVD and streaming platforms. With a shift from linear to streaming, writers and actors want more money than they currently get. However, Bob Iger explains how this is simply not realistic. With less seasons, fewer episodes and a big change in viewership numbers, trying to replicate the syndicated television model with streaming is something the studios are fighting back over, since most of the streaming services are still losing money.
“We managed as an industry to negotiate a very good deal with the Directors Guild that reflects the value that the directors contribute to this great business. We wanted to do the same thing with the writers and we’d like to do the same thing with the actors. There’s a level of expectation that they have that is just not realistic, and they are adding to a set of challenges that this business is already facing, that is quite frankly, very disruptive.”
"There is a level of expectations that [the writers and actors] have that is just not realistic," says $DIS CEO @RobertIger on the @sagaftra and WGA strike. "They are adding to a set of challenges that this business is already facing and that is very disruptive." pic.twitter.com/ySYvfQBYA5
Bob Iger returned to Disney back in November and has been making sweeping changes within the company, including laying off 7000 staff and restructuring the business. During this same interview, he spoke about reducing the amount of content they create to save money and also potentially selling off its linear television channels, focusing its studios on creating content for Disney+. As part of this, they are looking to make major cuts to budgets, which is no doubt one reason why the studios are fighting back so much against the unions over their demands. Iger explained how the old distribution model, which the unions are looking to replicate in streaming isn’t the same.
“There clearly is content that they create that is core to Disney, but the distribution model, the business model that forms the underpinning of that business — and that is delivering great profits over the years — is definitely broken, and we have to call it like it is. When I came back, one of the things I discovered was that the disruptive forces that have been preying on that business for a while are greater than I thought. It’s eye-opening. There’s a reality to it that we have to come to grips with, and we have to come to grips with it now.”
Ultimately, the studios and the unions are going to have to meet in the middle, since they both need one another. But it’s how much either party is willing to bend. With residuals being a key aspect of negotiations, hopefully, they can come to an agreement soon, so that all of us get the entertainment we want, while also making money for the studios and also allowing those who work on these projects a decent lifestyle.
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Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom.