Actors get a cut of streaming revenues

24 April, 2014 by Don Groves

Actors Equity is reminding Australian broadcasters they cannot stream shows online in advance of the broadcast premiere without getting the approval of all cast members and paying them a fee.

The issue first arose when the Nine Network screened the first four episodes of Playmaker Media’s Love Child on its catch-up service Jump-in before the drama series premiered in February.


The issue was back on the agenda when the ABC announced all six episodes of Chris Lilley’s comedy Jonah from Tonga will be available first on ABC iview from May 2- 4.

Equity was quick to point out to broadcasters and producers that exploiting series in ancillary markets before the initial broadcast is precluded under the Australian Television Repeats and Residuals Agreement (ATRRA), which was last renewed in 2004.

Equity and Screen Producers Australia are negotiating a new ATRRA deal which is expected to make provision for pre-broadcast streaming.

“We have made it clear to the networks that they can’t stream shows in advance of the broadcast premiere without getting clearance from all the actors,” Equity director Sue McCreadie told IF.

All cast members of Love Child and Princess Pictures' Jonah from Tonga gave their permission and a fee was negotiated based on the projected number of eyeballs who would watch online and the perceived value to broadcasters, she said.

“These are one-off deals,” she said. “It’s now part of the broader package of terms we are seeking for the new ATRRA.”

Another key issue in negotiation is the current structure of payments for repeats of shows outside the initial licence period, which Equity says discourages repeats because there is little or no provision to reward performers in the license fees that broadcasters pay producers. A rare exception is repeats aired on digital channel ABC3. 

“We are proposing that repeat fees are replaced by a royalty structure on license fees which will be shared among performers,” she said.