For many years, 67 to be exact, actors could count on receiving residual checks when commercials, movies, or television shows they worked on aired, in addition to their payment for working on the project. Though it was never a completely reliable source of income, actors have heavily relied and depended upon residuals to help pay their bills.
Fast forward to today when streaming services have completely changed the way we think about and consume entertainment. Music, movies, and television shows are now available 24/7. Actors must be raking in the residuals, then, right? Unfortunately not.
Upon the creation of streaming services, many individuals and entertainment professionals wondered how the people who worked on the shows and movies would be compensated. After all, this new system fell outside the boundaries of standard residual processes. Surely, actors and others who worked on the show can’t be paid everytime someone streams their show.
If using the previous residual structure, binge-watching series would amount to billions of dollars owed to entertainers, writers, directors, and producers. When you consider how many and how often people stream content, it quickly becomes clear that such a system is not sustainable.
With that said, actors do still receive residuals, but the amount of the residuals is much, much less than what usually accompanies work on a cable network, commercial, or movie. In fact, the amount was said to be so minuscule that in July of 2017 the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), together with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, suggested the residuals from streaming services be increased and expedited.
Additionally, SAG-AFTRA’s joint deal proposed a change to the timeline in which the streaming services need to send out their residual checks. Previously, actors had to wait a full year to receive their residuals from streaming. With the new plan, they would only have to wait 90.
Some industry experts predicted that the increase in residual payment, as well as the accelerated timeline, would increase actors’ residuals by approximately 300%. Others, including actors who had been fighting for higher residuals remains skeptic.
Two months later, in August 2017, the deal was passed. SAG-AFTRA assured its members that they would be compensated for the use of their work on new media platforms. However, many actors still claim the 2017 deal didn’t do enough for their wallets. While this may not widely affect big Hollywood stars, the current residuals structure for streaming services leaves much to be desired for lesser known performers.