Ted Sarandos Says SAG-AFTRA Asked for Levy on Every Netflix Subscriber

Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos shed some light on why negotiations between striking actors union SAG-AFTRA and Hollywood’s biggest producers fell apart.

After a blistering statement from the guild in the wee hours on Thursday morning accused the studios and streamers of “bully tactics,” Sarandos hit the main stage of Bloomberg’s Screentime conference and ran headfirst into questions about the breakdown.

Sarandos said that Wednesday evening talks ended with the guild proposing a “levy” on on each of Netflix’s roughly 238 million subscribers.

“We had very productive talks going, then what kind of happened last night – they introduced this levy on subscribers, on top of … historic highs in terms of increases across the board,” Sarandos said at the Los Angeles event. The executive pointed out that while the offer from producers mirrors one reached in September with the Writers Guild of America, it will cost “four-to-five times more” to implement a similar contract with SAG-AFTRA’s larger membership.

Sarandos also said the subscriber levy came after the studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, received a similar proposal to share revenue with the actors.

“It just felt like a bridge too far to add this deep into the negotiation,” he said. Sarandos did not clarify if the guild was seeking a per-subscriber cut from Netflix exclusively, or from all streaming services involved in the negotiations.

The studios have approached this negotiation with the same intensity they did the coronavirus pandemic, Sarandos said, and underscored a need to get production up and running after over 5 months dark.

“The goal here is to get people back to work. The goal is to get the town opened up,” he said. “This is not just hurting our industry, it’s hurting every other business that supports our industry … not just in California, but very, extremely painful in California.”

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