Bob Iger Says WGA and SAG-AFTRA Are Not Being Realistic and He’s Wrong

Robert A. Iger, Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board, at The Walt Disney Company’s Investor Day 2020. Courtesy of Disney.

Disney CEO Bob Iger said that neither the actors or writers were being realistic during an appearance on Squawk in the Morning.

The comments on CNBC were Iger’s first public comments since yesterday’s contract extension was announced. Make no mistake that he’s going to be blasted on social media and rightfully so. Both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA are being very realistic in wanting fair compensation. Is it right for CEOs and such like Bob Iger in the C-suite to continue to profit of shows in which writers and actors are making very little to no money? What about just outright yanking a movie or TV series off of a streaming service? How is that right? The way that I see it, it is absolutely wrong to yank a film for a tax write-off.

Iger’s comments (via Variety):

“It’s very disturbing to me. We’ve talked about disruptive forces on this business and all the challenges we’re facing, the recovery from COVID which is ongoing, it’s not completely back. This is the worst time in the world to add to that disruption,” Iger said. “I understand any labor organization’s desire to work on behalf of its members to get the most compensation and be compensated fairly based on the value that they deliver. We managed, as an industry, to negotiate a very good deal with the directors guild that reflects the value that the directors contribute to this great business. We wanted to do the same thing with the writers, and we’d like to do the same thing with the actors. There’s a level of expectation that they have, that is just not realistic. And they are adding to the set of the challenges that this business is already facing that is, quite frankly, very disruptive.”

I know many directors that wanted a better deal. The DGA was able to get a good deal in some areas. In other areas, there certainly could be some improvements. However, both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA were also asking for reassurances regarding AI. This is something where the AMPTP is refusing to budge. They have this fakakta belief that they can use AI to write movies or replace actors. I’m sorry but this is just absolutely wrong. AI cannot write a series. Hell, AI cannot even list the titles of Star Wars movies in chronological order! A lot of what’s happening right now is that the studios want to make even more money off of their streaming services. They are unable to do this when WGA and SAG-AFTRA are asking for better residuals. Anything is better than the current residual system for streaming.

The current residual system, in large part, is a factor why so many budgets are very high for made-for-streaming movies. When one takes away the ancillary market’s opportunity to drive revenue, it means accounting for both the front-end and back-end pay in the production budget. That’s prior to adding everything else, including the P&A expenses. Look at last November. Netflix gave Glass Onion a limited theatrical release for a week. By the time that people in my circle had time to see it, the film was no longer playing. Think of all the lost revenue by not extending the theatrical run! One can only hope that future Benoit Blanc mysteries get an opportunity to have a longer theatrical run.

Bob Iger on the business impact:

“It will have a very, very damaging affect on the whole business, and unfortunately, there’s huge collateral damage in the industry to people who are supportive services, and I could go on and on. It will affect the economy of different regions, even, because of the sheer size of the business. It’s a shame, it is really a shame.”

It’s going to have a devastating impact for those of us covering film and television. One of the first things to do is no press junkets. I’m still waiting to see how this will impact interview opportunities during the upcoming Fan Expo Chicago. My understanding is that actors cannot discuss current and future projects but what does this mean for something like the Back to the Future reunion panel? Can the panel even happen under the current strike rules or will regional conventions have to scale back in the same way that the San Diego Comic Con is doing so this month?

The studios could have offered a fair contract at any time. Instead, they refused to even counter some of the WGA proposals before talks broke off. Assuming the same thing happened with SAG-AFTRA, it’s why we’re looking at a double-strike for the first time since the 1960s. I wholeheartedly stand with my friends in the WGA and SAG-AFTRA. The same goes for UPS, too.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.