Fall 2016

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TV LANDSCAPE HAS PITFALLS AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR PERFORMERS TV LANDSCAPE HAS PITFALLS AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR PERFORMERS L ast summer, FX Networks' CEO John Landgraf said, "There is simply too much television" and floated an idea that's become known as "peak TV." It's a phrase that had once been used by critics to describe the glut of critically acclaimed series that were produced in the wake of HBO's The Sopranos. But in 2015, it was a theory applied to the sheer volume of scripted series being produced. Too many productions filming might not sound like a problem for performers, but it actually creates industrywide challenges along with opportunities. And the increase could continue for the foreseeable future. "I think there's the potential for more growth," said David Viviano, SAG-AFTRA's chief economist. "We are seeing that with how the American and the global public are consuming more and more scripted dramatic content." Part of the reason for the increase is that the number of outlets producing and exhibiting content is going up. The tally of broadcast, cable and pay TV networks, and streaming services exhibiting dramatic TV content went from 32 in 2009–10 (the traditional TV season) to 49 in 2014–15, according to SAG-AFTRA data. Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon are growing their slates of programming every year. These services nearly tripled the number of series covered by SAG-AFTRA contracts from about a dozen in 2011–12 to 34 in 2014–15. In fact, Netflix alone is now spending some $6 billion on programming and doing something that's making even agents nervous: buying out the rights and residuals on the frontend. One agent anonymously told The Hollywood Reporter in September, "I'm worried about the long term. If backends go away, what's the future? This is why CAA [Creative Artists Agency] and WME [William Morris Endeavor] have diversified." The good news is there's more work and more interesting roles are being created. There's also been a slight increase in the diversity of roles being offered. "We are seeing more opportunities for traditionally under-represented demographics," said Viviano. "There are more opportunities, but still a tremendous disparity across different demographics." On the other hand, the series orders are shorter and they carry the same exclusivity clauses in performers' contracts. And with more actors earning high-profile credits, the competition for roles is increasing. This is leading to what Viviano calls "wage compression." "It's driven by the competition among performers and the willingness of a producer to just say, 'Take it or leave it,'" he said. Performers' wages are also being driven down by the types of roles that are being made available. "What was once being offered as a season regular role, they're now offering as day performer contracts or guest star contracts," he said. "They're not negotiating over the credits." Travel provisions could also be increasingly important as dual-language productions like Netflix's Narcos, which was shot on location in Colombia, become the norm. "We see business models like Netflix's turn toward a global audience," 56 SAG-AFTRA | Fall 2016 | "WE ARE SEEING THAT … THE AMERICAN AND THE GLOBAL PUBLIC ARE CONSUMING MORE AND MORE SCRIPTED DRAMATIC CONTENT." – David Viviano, Chief Economist, SAG-AFTRA

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