Donna Langley has spoken publicly about the ongoing SAG-AFTRA negotiations, saying that the studio side will spend “as much time as it takes” in the negotiating room until both parties can reach a resolution.
The NBCUniversal Studio Group chairman and chief content officer declined to elaborate in a scheduled appearance at Bloomberg’s Screentime event on Wednesday, saying: “I think the best way I can say it is we’ve spent time with the actors, and we want to spend as much time as it takes.” So we can come up with a solution and get the industry back on its feet and get back to business as our goals have been since day one. Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw interviewed the CEO in Los Angeles.
As for the possibility of the SAG-AFTRA strike continuing and impacting her studio’s summer film slate, Langley said, “I don’t relish the idea of a summer season without volume of movies. If I’ve learned anything during COVID, it’s lack of volume,” Langley said. [that] It really affects the rhythm of the cinema. And we were just seeing a recovery from that in 2023 again in the summer with a 5 percent decline. “If we lose that, it will have a lasting, meaningful and not-so-good impact on our industry.”
Earlier that day, the executive attended the final round of negotiations on a new three-year SAG-AFTRA contract that could put an end to the union’s ongoing strike, which has now lasted nearly three months. She was joined in talks on the studio side by Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos and Warner Bros. CEO Ted Sarandos. Discovery’s David Zaslav, and Disney CEO Bob Iger.
During her appearance on Screentime, Langley also answered a question about why it took so long for Writers Guild of America negotiations to conclude with a deal (Langley, Sarandos, Zaslav, and Iger were present in the final days of negotiations). “The experience in the room with the writers was difficult because we had to deal with issues like artificial intelligence and minimal staffing and things that up to that point were unprecedented,” she said. “I can’t speak to why it took as long as it did. It just took as long as it did.
On October 2, SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP negotiators resumed negotiations for the first time since the performers’ union went on strike. The two parties have been negotiating on and off since then, with studio leaders — Sarandos, Zaslav, Iger, and Langley — once again present in the discussions. Their presence raised hopes that the parties would soon be able to reach an agreement and end the actors’ strike, which essentially led to a local suspension of union productions except in cases where the union offered a temporary agreement.
However, there are still many issues for both sides to work on. Through these negotiations, SAG-AFTRA made a bold proposal to actors from successful streaming projects to receive a portion of the platforms’ subscription revenue. Before they returned to the negotiating room in early October, the two sides had yet to reach an agreement on AI regulations, increasing minimum rates, and a host of other issues.
Beginning on July 14, the SAG-AFTRA strike crippled the industry for months. The 148-day concurrent Writers Guild of America strike concluded on September 27, but the majority of major physical productions were still without union representatives. Entertainment employment has fallen by 45,000 jobs since the WGA strike began in May, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Oct. 6.
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