aftra network code summary







  “I went into the Network Code negotiations looking to secure the future for AFTRA members in both new media and old. We got a fantastic deal that raises rates and conditions across almost all categories of work and that locks down coverage for work in new media. I came out of negotiations with my head high, proud of the negotiating team, proud of my union, and set to earn more money as soon as we get this thing ratified.”
Holter Graham, Actor

All wage increases are conditioned upon ratification before May 8, 2008.

• Overall increase in the economic package of program fees and AFTRA Health and Retirement of 3.5% per year for programs other than serials; 3% per year for serials as follows:

o Non-serials increase 3.5% retroactive to 11/16/07, 3% on 11/16/08, and 3% on 11/16/09.

o Serials increase 3% retroactive to 11/16/07, 2.5% on 11/16/08, and 2.5% on 11/16/09.

o The AFTRA H&R; contribution rate increases from 14% to 14.5% effective 11/16/08 and to 15% effective 11/16/09.

• Starting November 2008, base pay for principal performers on dramatic programs (other than serials) will be at the same one-day, three-day and weekly rates as provided in “Exhibit A” of the Code. This change represents an increase of 6.7% for a performer who works a single day on a half-hour program and substantially more for those who work a full week on a half-hour show.

• Serial performers in “running parts” will now have a two-week reconciliation period (instead of a 26-week period), ensuring them quicker payment for “additional work days” on a single episode.

• Other economic items:

o For award shows longer than one hour and primetime variety programs of 60 minutes or more (Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, etc.) the minimum call for singers and stand-ins will be increased.

o Background rates increase by 2.5% for serials, by 3% for variety, and by 3% on 11/16/08 and again by 3% on 11/16/09 for programs other than variety and serials.

 Background actors required to furnish personal items or vehicles will now be paid additional allowances as specified in the current Exhibit A primetime agreement.

 There continues to be no “caps” or excluded “zones” for background performers under the AFTRA Network Code.

• In addition to increases in dancers’ basic program fees, dancers will also see additional increases as the result of a new day rate structure for award shows of over 60 minutes. The minimum payment (if only one day is worked) of $870. The day rates increase by 3% on 11/16/09.

• The minimum for off-camera promos increases from $227 to $234 per promo. To address the problem of the varying rates which have been paid to promo announcers for “value added” promos, a new floor of $400 for such announcements has been established: raising the minimum rate that has been paid to announcers at certain networks by over 80%.

• Under the prior Code, the regular stunt coordinator on serials were eligible to receive health and retirement contributions coverage, but coverage was not guaranteed and generally not extended to fill-in or freelance coordinators. With the new agreement, all stunt coordinators on serials will receive AFTRA Health and Retirement coverage.

“Promo announcers are a perennial target of the industry in Network Code negotiations. This time was no different, so our accomplishments for this community are particularly great. We won a raise, jurisdiction for promos made for new media, and a new higher rate for a so-called Value-Added Promotional Announcement. It’s a terrific deal for members.”
Anne Gartlan, Promo Announcer
New Media

Jurisdiction: First, and foremost, the new Code confirms AFTRA jurisdiction over entertainment program formats covered by the Code, such as variety, comedy, dramatic serials, reality and others, which are made directly for new media. When such programs (both original and derivative) or promo announcements which promote either “traditional” TV programs or covered new media programs are made directly for new media platforms, they will be covered by the union contract subject to individual negotiation. H&R; coverage, non-discrimination, late payment penalties, grievance and arbitration as well as other basic provisions of the Code will apply.

Low-budget original programs (with production costs of less than $15,000 per minute, $300,000 per program, or $500,000 per series) which do not use covered performers will be considered “experimental.” Experimental productions will continue to operate under the terms of the 2001-2004 and 2004-2007 Code: coverage is negotiable on a case-by-case basis. The producers will confirm in writing that experimental programs cannot be used as a subterfuge to create programming for traditional TV and evade the terms of the Code.

“Derivative programs”—programs made directly for new media but inspired by and based on an existing TV program—will be covered regardless of production cost.

Terms for original ‘made for new media’ dramatic productions (other than serials) will be negotiated as part of the ‘Exhibit A’ primetime negotiations.

Electronic Sell-Through (EST): This agreement increases the rate for residuals for TV programs sold as downloads (“electronic sell-through” or “EST”) above the rate now paid for the sale of television programs on DVD. Specifically, the performers’ share of EST will be 5.4% of “distributor’s gross receipts” for the first 100,000 downloaded units, and 10.5% thereafter. The new Code also reaffirms the 2001 and 2004 side letters for paid streaming and “download to rent.”

Free to Consumer Web Streaming: Consistent with models negotiated with the DGA and WGA, the new Code now limits the time a program may be streamed on a free website to 17 consecutive days surrounding the initial broadcast (24 days for programs in their first season) before residuals are triggered. After this period, if there is continued streaming, each performer must receive a fixed payment to cover 26 weeks of streaming, and the company can purchase up to one additional 26-week cycle by paying each performer an additional fixed payment. Once the one-year mark is reached, the company must pay 6% of distributor’s gross to be shared by the performers appearing on the program. This approach mirrors the supplemental market structures for pay TV and basic cable which have been in place for many years.

The new Code will also include the identical, and critical, provision that the DGA and WGA achieved in defining distributor’s gross. “Distributor’s gross” is the amount received by the entity responsible for distributing the program on the Internet or other new media. The companies are now contractually obligated to give us broad and unprecedented access to their deals and data, enabling us to monitor and prepare for our next negotiation. This access is new to unions in this industry, and was a critical component for any agreement on this issue. If the exhibitor or retailer is part of the producer’s corporate family, the union will now have the ability to support challenges to any suspect transactions.

  “The new Network Code will provide solid increases in program fees, security for our Health and Retirement plan, and will address working conditions affecting almost every category of performer. In addition, your Negotiating Committee held the line against proposals to roll back residuals, to impose “caps” on background performers, and to allow “crediting” of overtime, turnaround, and other penalties against the overscale pay of actors on daytime dramas.”
Roberta Reardon, Actor
Negotiating Committee Co-Chair

Sunset Provision: The provisions related to new media contain a “sunset provision”: all of the new media terms will expire when the contract concludes, permitting the union and the industry to revisit new media when this Code expires—and with the real world experience based on facts we acquire over the next 30 months. There are many questions as to which business model(s) will survive, and until that is known it is not possible to responsibly determine how best to assure performers the best long-term formula upon which to capitalize on the surviving model. With this in mind, we negotiated an agreement which allows us to adjust to the changing landscape, establish core principles of jurisdiction and compensation to performers, but without locking into a formula that might someday work against the interests of performers.

Look for your ratification ballot in the mail—and be sure to vote to approve the Network Code. Most performers will get an increase of up to 3.5 percent in program fees, retroactive to November 16, 2007, if the new agreement is ratified before May 8.