IATSE To Producers: It’s Time For New Media To Pay Up

Saying that “New Media is not so new anymore” and that “not-so-New Media doesn’t need a worker subsidy,” IATSE says it’s time for longstanding discounts afforded to New Media productions to end.

“New Media is just media,” the union said in advance of next week’s resumption of negotiations with management’s Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for a new film and TV contract. “For over 15 years, IATSE members have supported the development of productions made for delivery over the Internet and other similar distribution systems (‘New Media’) as it has grown to become a commercially viable and profitable method that dominates content delivery.”

”IATSE members have contributed their skill and artistry to these projects while the budgets have exploded,” the union said. But it noted that “on some New Media projects, members are not even paid a specific scale wage or credited with pension hours.”

Bargaining for a new three-year deal broke off on June 11 after four weeks of talks, and the current contact, which had been set to expire on July 31, was extended to allow for industrywide negotiations to reach a new set of return-to-work protocols that include mandatory, though limited, Covid-19 vaccination guidelines. Bargaining is set to resume Aug. 17.

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In its latest update in advance of the negotiations, the union said: “In 2009, IATSE and the Studios mutually recognized that the economics of New Media were ‘uncertain’ and that greater flexibility in terms of conditions of employment were ‘mutually beneficial.’ That is simply no longer the case, and the benefits are no longer ‘mutual.’

“It is time for employers to recognize the superseding concept they negotiated that same year, that if and when ‘New Media productions became an economically viable medium, then the parties would mutually recognize that fact in future agreements.’”

A side letter to the union’s 2018 contract, signed by IATSE president Matt Loeb and AMPTP president Carol Lombardini, states that “When the parties entered into the 2015 negotiations, they mutually understood that the economics of New Media production were uncertain and that greater flexibility in terms and conditions of employment was therefore mutually beneficial. The parties understood that if one or more business models developed such that New Media production became an economically viable medium, then the parties would mutually recognize that fact in future agreements…The parties further acknowledge that conditions in this area are changing rapidly and that the negotiation for the successor agreement will be based on the conditions that exist and reasonably can be forecast at that time.”

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In its latest update, the union said: “The pandemic has laid bare what many of us already knew: New Media is now the industry standard and growing exponentially. This is not just about streaming companies – among the most valuable companies on the planet – but also about the studios and networks where our members’ labor facilitated their ability to compete and succeed. New Media is just Media.”

To support its bargaining position, the union cites news reports about the market values of “The Who’s Who of streaming video stocks”:

  • Apple/Apple TV+ $2.1 trillion
  • Amazon.com/Prime Video $1.6 trillion
  • Alphabet/Google/YouTube $1.5 trillion
  • Disney/Disney+ $315.3 billion
  • Comcast/Peacock $269.6 billion
  • AT&T/HBO Max $250.2 billion
  • Netflix $215.8 billion
  • Viacom CBS/Paramount $25.2 billion
  • Discovery/Discovery Communications $18 billion

“The future is here,” the union says. “The moment is now. New Media is media. We helped build it. We deserve to be paid fairly for it.”

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