Most Web shows don't rely on SAG labor, and those that do haven't crossed a financial threshold where they must pay SAG actors on an ongoing basis. In addition, top-tier Web shows such as "Gemini Division" and "The Guild," which do employ SAG actors, have been able to strike talent deals with them via agreements with the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, which reached a contract agreement with the producers in July.
Most experts agree that a strike is unlikely; actors are wary of picketing in the midst of an economic downturn. But digital media revenue is at the heart of the SAG negotiations, raising questions about how on-camera talent will or won't participate in Web video in the future.
So far, Web producers have pursued different strategies when they cast their shows, some for financial reasons, some for future-proofing. Many producers have leaned on AFTRA's guidelines and the stipulations SAG has made for Internet productions to date.
On its Web site, SAG states that actors working under the "Screen Actors Guild Special Internet/On-Line Agreement" are free to negotiate pay scale and SAG minimums do not apply.
In its deal inked this summer, AFTRA agreed that Web productions costing less than $15,000 a minute would be exempt from union jurisdiction. That covers virtually all Web shows. That exemption is an area of concern for SAG, which is worried that Web shows will come to rely on a non-union workforce.
But for the time being, Web production is likely to remain on track.
In a letter to SAG members posted on its Web site, the union said any work stoppage would affect TV and theatrical work only, while commercials, TV animation, basic cable live-action and animation, industrial and interactive/video game work could continue.
Because there is no definitive SAG agreement in place regarding digital media, most Web shows do not operate under SAG rules. "Even though we use a number of SAG actors, we have so far worked under an AFTRA agreement that allows SAG actors to work in digital media," said Brent Friedman, a partner in Electric Farm Entertainment, which produces "Gemini Division" for NBC.com. "Because most members of SAG are also members of AFTRA, the lack of a SAG agreement has not, [and] probably will not, cause a work stoppage for us. Once SAG nails down a definitive agreement, we will no doubt work with them like we now do with the WGA and DGA."