How Many Netflix Shows Will Get the New WGA Performance Bonus? Depends Who You Ask

Fighting for streaming residuals has been a hard-fought sticking point for the writers and actors negotiations, but bottom-line results of the new bonus threshold may be limited.

Less than 5 percent of Netflix originals in 2022 “would have triggered performance bonuses under the new contract between the Writers Guild of America and major studios,” Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw wrote on Sunday. The new deal between the WGA and the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) pays out performance bonuses if at least 20 percent of a streaming platform’s U.S. users consume a new original film or TV series within its first 90 days.

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Shaw’s rate of 5 percent or less accounts for all Netflix original titles, he wrote — including foreign-language, animated, and unscripted programs that aren’t governed by the WGA deal. So while, say, docuseries “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” crosses the threshold with a 30 percent share of U.S. users, it isn’t governed by the new WGA contract.

For the shows and films that are covered by the new MBA (minimum basic agreement), performance bonuses begin January 1, 2024. Credited writers, writers in the writers room, and/or the pre-greenlight room, would get a $9,031 bonus for a half-hour episode or $16,415 for an hour-long episode. Credited screenwriters on a streaming film with a budget north of $30 million would get a $40,500 bonus for meeting the threshold.

SAG-AFTRA, the actors guild, is currently battling the studios on a number of sticking points; one of them is streaming residuals. The AMPTP presented SAG with what it called its “last, best, and final” contract offer over the weekend. SAG-AFTRA leadership is mulling it over.

Shaw’s data set comes from Digital i, a London-based research house that tracks viewership based on a panel of 2,000 U.S. participants.

Netflix declined comment to IndieWire. The WGA did not immediately respond to our request for comment on the findings presented in this story.

You People. (L to R) Eddie Murphy as Akbar and Jonah Hill (Writer-Producer) as Ezra in You People. Cr. Parrish Lewis/Netflix © 2023.
“You People”Parrish Lewis/Netflix © 2023

Fan blog What’s On Netflix recently took a similar view of the bonus-eligible landscape, but with more optimistic results. On October 2, Frédéric Durand wrote that 50 percent of eligible Netflix series this year (seven of 14 from January-August 2023) would qualify for the WGA performance bonus. The key there is eligibility and while Shaw took a bird’s eye view, Durand drilled down. Just like the Digital i data vs. Nielsen’s, both POVs are valid.

Durand believes 63 percent of Netflix original films (14 of 22 from January-August) would have made the cut. “The Night Agent,” “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story,” “Beef,” and “That ’90s Show” made the grade; “FUBAR,” “The Diplomat,” and “Painkiller” probably did as well. (Bloomberg specifically cites “FUBAR” and “The Diplomat” as missing the 20 percent threshold; the two studies concur on shows “The Night Agent” and “That ’90s Show,” and movies “You People,” “The Mother,” “Murder Mystery 2,” and “We Have a Ghost.”)

Bloomberg did not list every series or film that would make the threshold; rather, it posted Netflix’s Top 10 biggest hits over the first half of 2023 and then some select near misses. In all, there were 18 titles that crossed the threshold. Shaw’s very next point? “More than 100” titles over the same time period have been viewed by fewer than 1 percent of U.S. Netflix users.

Like a game of Battleship (2012 film adaptation currently streaming on Peacock!), streaming is way more misses than hits.

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