The labor union representing 160,000 actors, singers and broadcast journalists is set to strike as soon as tomorrow (July 13) if a new contract isn’t reached today. The union, called the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), is negotiating higher wages for its members, better benefits and protections around the use of artificial intelligence. SAG-AFTRA and the trade association representing Hollywood studios have yet to come to terms, and the union contract is set to expire today at 11:59 p.m. PST.
A group of senior media executives held a conference call on July 10 about bringing in a federal mediator to help the parties reach a deal, according to Variety. The executives on the call reportedly include Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD)’s David Zaslav, Netflix (NFLX)’s Ted Sarandos and the Walt Disney (DIS) Company’s Dana Walden and Alan Bergman. In the background of the negotiations, many of the involved individuals, including Zaslav, Walden and Disney’s Bob Iger, are in Sun Valley, Idaho attending the Allen & Company conference, the so-called billionaire summer camp.
A SAG-AFTRA strike could cause major disruptions in Hollywood, especially with the writers’ strike still underway. The Writers Guild of America, an 11,500-person labor union representing film and television writers, began striking on similar issues in May. A series of shows in the writing process—including new seasons of Yellowstone, The Last of Us, Stranger Things and Abbott Elementary—paused productions as a result. An actors’ strike could halt the remaining projects that have continued to film without writers. While companies might have been poised to handle the WGA strike, as Netflix co-CEO Sarandos said his company was, a walkout from another segment of industry workers could have ripple effects in scheduling and revenue expectations for years to come.
The executives on the call represent some of the companies that would be most impacted by a strike. Netflix, Disney and Warner Bros. typically compete for content and viewer attention, but the prospect of halted productions has placed them on the same team.
The executives trying to prevent a strike
David Zaslav is the former Discovery chief executive who oversees the merged Warner Bros. Discovery. He took the reins in April 2022, and much of his first year has included restructuring the company. He has also emphasized capitalizing on the company’s intellectual property like Harry Potter and Games of Thrones by creating additional shows and experiences. Before becoming CEO of Discovery in 2006, he worked at NBCUniversal and as a lawyer.
Ted Sarandos has worked as co-CEO of Netflix since 2020, first alongside founder Reed Hastings and more recently with Greg Peters. Last year, he won the Cannes Lions entertainment person of the year award. Before joining Netflix in 2000, he worked in a vice president role at a 500-store video renting chain.
Dana Walden works as co-chair of Disney Entertainment alongside Bergman. She oversees all news, streaming and entertainment content, including ABC, FX and Hulu Originals. She also manages the marketing and distribution for these properties, according to Disney’s website. Previously, Walden worked as the chairman of Disney General Entertainment Content and as the CEO of Fox Television Group.
Alan Bergman is also the co-chair of Disney Entertainment. He manages the film studios, including Pixar, Marvel and 20th Century Studios, while also overseeing marketing and operations for these groups. He joined Disney in 1996 and has worked in senior leadership roles at the Walt Disney Studios for more than 20 years.