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SAG-AFTRA, Actors’ Equity Settle Bitter Dispute Over Live Event Streams

The SAG-AFTRA building (Courtesy of SAG-AFTRA)

SAG-AFTRA and Actors’ Equity have settled a bitter jurisdictional dispute over which should cover the streaming of live events.

The performers unions announced the settlement late Thursday. Actors’ Equity, which represents 51,000 theater actors and stage managers, had accused SAG-AFTRA of raiding its turf and undercutting its contracts by negotiating lower-paying deals with theaters for streaming productions. SAG-AFTRA, which represents 160,000 performers in film, TV and radio, asserted that work made for broadcast is within its jurisdiction.

The settlement calls for preserving SAG-AFTRA’s historic jurisdiction while allowing Actors’ Equity to cover this work during the pandemic period, with a term concluding Dec. 31, 2021. SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris and National Executive Director David White announced the agreement in a message to members. The parties reached a tentative agreement on Nov. 14 that was approved unanimously by the SAG-AFTRA National Board of Directors and Actors’ Equity Association National Council on Thursday.

“Recognizing the challenges for theater during the pandemic and that the only way for live theater companies to reach audiences is by recording and/or streaming productions to a remote audience, SAG-AFTRA has agreed that AEA will cover this work during the pandemic period with a term concluding Dec. 31, 2021, subject to certain limitations including distribution on platforms like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc.” Carteris and White said.

“We are pleased that we are able to help create work opportunities for AEA members when it is vitally needed, while also protecting SAG-AFTRA members’ work opportunities now and into the future,” Carteris and White continued. “Existing contracts with SAG-AFTRA will be honored for their duration.”

The issue had arisen because live theaters had been using streaming of their productions as an alternative to productions before live audiences amid COVID-19 restrictions.

Variety's Dave McNary contributed to this post.

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