SAG’s $40 Million Streaming Bonus Doesn’t Amount to Much for the Average Actor

The $40 million streaming bonus in the new SAG-AFTRA deal won't amount to much money for the average actor. Sometimes referred to disparagingly by studio types as the Robin Hood Fund, the idea behind the streaming participation bonus is to get as many actors as possible extra compensation.

The $40 million annual streaming bonus for each of the next three years is split between performers on the top streaming shows and other actors working on streaming content. According to IndieWire, “In a headline, $40 million is an impressive number but it’s also: the budget of The Fabelmans, less than what Dwayne Johnson could make on his upcoming Amazon holiday movie, and about the same as Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s 2022 pay package.”

IndieWire continues, “If you’re an actor trying to make a living in Hollywood, what does an extra $40 million really mean for you? Simple math suggests it’s not much. Divide $40 million by 160,000 members and it’s $250 a person, with half going to taxes. But of course not all 160,000 members qualify for the streaming bonus, or even close.”

The Streaming Bonus Comes Out to Somewhere Between a Few Hundred to a Few Thousand Extra Dollars for Streaming Actors

The Sandman Tom Sturridge
Image Credit: Netflix.

Although calculating residuals is complicated and best left to professional bean counters, IndieWire estimates that actors can expect between a few hundred to a few thousand extra dollars in their residual checks. SAG-AFTRA executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland says the streaming bonus goes to actors working specifically on streaming projects, such as Tom Sturridge on Netflix's The Sandman (pictured). Theatrical movies or broadcast shows such as Suits or Friends that later appear on streaming services do not qualify for the streaming bonus.

“Over time this has the potential to actually do something really meaningful, especially if over time we’re able to expand the amount of money that comes in,” said Crabtree-Ireland about the streaming bonus. “For many actors, something like $1,000 or $2,000 can mean the difference between qualifying for health insurance or not. It can mean everything for someone who’s making $23,000-$24,000 a year and that’s the difference for their benefits. So I do think that it has real significant potential to change how actors perceive the way the streaming business is treating them.”

Regarding healthcare for SAG members, Crabtree-Ireland said that striking actors still qualify for healthcare benefits through the guild this year even though they may not meet earnings requirements due to the strike. Whatever an actor earned prior to the strike is prorated throughout the 118 days of the strike and factored into an actor's eligibility requirements. “If they’ve earned at least that much, they’ll get an extension of their health plan coverage, and an extended period of time in which to earn enough to trigger another year’s coverage,” added Crabtree Ireland.