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In Major Deal, Directors Guild Retroactively Secures Writers’ Streaming Success Bonus

Nearly seven months after it ratified its latest labor contract with Hollywood studios and streamers, the Directors Guild of America has improved upon some of that deal’s terms — and gained a cornerstone achievement of the 2023 writers strike.

The union informed members Thursday that it had secured the same streaming success bonus and access to streaming platform viewing data that the Writers Guild of America won after spending 148 days on strike in 2023. “With few exceptions, the residual structures are aligned across the Guilds, and the implementation of this new model, which provides additional compensation based upon a viewer metric across the entire season of a show, follows that pattern,” national executive director Russell Hollander informed the union’s members. “Although this will not impact a large number of DGA members, it opens the door to additional compensation tied to the success of a project in future negotiations.” The provision went into effect Jan. 1.

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Unlike its counterparts in the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA, the Directors Guild did not go on strike during its major contract negotiations in 2023, taking a deal that was controversial in some corners of the union but ultimately was ratified by 87 percent of its members. In the meantime, after spending 148 days and 118 days on strike, respectively, the WGA and SAG-AFTRA both touted their new streaming success bonuses as major achievements of the work stoppages and their attendant sacrifices. The two residual models achieved differ between the actors and writers unions, but they both ultimately reward union members for titles that take off on streaming services with additional payments. Now, without going on strike at all, the DGA has retroactively gained the WGA’s version of this bonus.

And that’s not all. Additionally, in this latest round of talks with the producers, the directors union boosted the employer contribution rates to its health and pension plan by 0.5 percent in the second and third years of the contract. The union retroactively won pay increases for dramatic pay television and high-budget SVOD directors that are the same as other directors receive under the contract and improved wages for third assistant directors, associate directors and unit production managers working on pilots or the first two seasons of projects for pay television or high-budget SVOD: Reduced rates for those early episodes will no longer apply, resulting in a 5 percent pay increase. The union also negotiated the end of weekly caps on daily production fees for associate directors and stage managers on non-primetime television shows.

The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which negotiates labor agreements on behalf of studios and streamers, for comment.

After the directors union overwhelmingly ratified its latest three-year contract on June 23, it went back to the AMPTP to see if it could make additional gains, per Hollander. “Our work to protect and extend your creative and economic rights is never finished. These contract enhancements are the result of months of advocacy and difficult discussions with the AMPTP. We will never stop fighting for you.”

Of course, it’s not unusual for an entertainment unions to gain similar provisions to those in peer unions’ contracts. Entertainment unions frequently analyze other labor organizations’ deals and advocate to gain similar favorable language (what is typically called “pattern bargaining”) and/or achieve a contract of a comparable value with studios and streamers. What is atypical in this situation is that the DGA didn’t have to wait until its next round of contract negotiations in several years to make these adjustments, but rather was able to return to the bargaining table with the AMPTP not long after its own negotiations concluded.

Going back to the table was a bold move, particularly after the DGA faced criticism in the broader labor community during the 2023 strikes for forgoing the leverage that could have been provided if the directors had joined the actors and writers on strike. In a statement, a spokesperson for the DGA said, “Understanding the urgent needs of our members after a difficult year, we’re proud to have achieved these gains and protected the Guild’s Pension and Health Plans. We will never stop fighting on behalf of our members.”

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