Artist RightsInternet TelevisionVoice Acting

Voice Actors Threatening To Call Strike Over Streaming Services Like Netflix and Amazon

Animation voice actors, represented by the powerful union SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), are threatening to call a strike over sub-par terms for performers working on animated series for subscription-based streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon.

The central issue for actors, according to a recent letter sent to SAG-AFTRA members by union president Gabrielle Carteris, is the refusal by producers to offer scale minimums or residuals for animated series made for streaming platforms.

The union is asking its members who work in voice acting for a strike authorization. Members have until July 18 to cast their vote, and more than 75% of voters have to approve of the strike authorization for SAG-AFTRA’s national board to authorize a strike.

“Animation performers need the power of a strike authorization to avoid losing the hard-fought gains that generations of performers before them have struggled to win,” Carteris added in her letter. “That is why the National Board has unanimously recommended that you vote YES to authorize a strike, if necessary, of these agreements. A strike authorization does not mean that a strike will necessarily happen, but it gives animation performers an additional tool to negotiate their contracts.”

Voice actors are currently working under expired contracts. The contracts expired on June 30, 2017, and negotiations have stalled between the union and entertainment companies, largely because they’ve been unable to come to terms on animated programs made for subscription-based streaming platforms.

Addressing the issue of streaming animation has taken on greater urgency as there are now nearly as many animated series being made now for streaming as there are cable. Since the SAG-AFTRA contract expired last year, 22 new animated series have gone into production for subscription-based streaming services, as compared to 23 new series having gone into production for basic cable.

With Disney set to soon launch its own streaming service and Warner Bros. already pushing original content onto its Boomerang service, the number of series produced for streaming will soon surpass basic cable production. In fact, WB Animation recently renegotiated the contracts for several shows it was initially producing for basic cable, and will now send them to its streaming Boomerang platform.

Of the 22 streaming shows that have entered production during the last year, Carteris says:

Because that work is not covered by the traditional terms of our TV Animation Agreements, our animation performers do not have the benefit of scale minimums when they work on these programs, the overwhelming majority of which will never pay residuals for any new media exhibition. In other words, when you go to work on an animated program made for new media, the producer can pay you as little as you are willing to accept and will likely be able to use the program on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, iTunes, etc. for subscribers to view or customers to pay to download forever without ever paying you a residual.

According to Variety, the strike authorization campaign has the backing of many high-profile actors who work on the voice performance side, including Pamela Adlon, Ed Asner, Nancy Cartwright, Dan Castellanata, Nick Kroll, Laraine Newman, Patton Oswalt, Cassandra Peterson, and Mindy Sterling.

Latest News from Cartoon Brew