Work is Work: What you need to know about Sideletter N

Sideletter N is a part of our bargaining agreement with unionized studios that addresses New Media (which some call Streaming Media) work. When it was implemented in 2009, Sideletter N provided “freely negotiable terms and conditions” for New Media. It wasn’t until 2015 that [Sideletter N] wage minimums and improved working conditions were included in the CBA. Then, adjusting the budget tier definitions in 2018 broadened the scope of productions that had to abide by these improved terms.

Though establishing New Media as covered work within the Guild was essential, there are some noted disadvantages to the sideletter. The terms for work on New Media productions are different from the terms of the main agreement. The logic behind these reduced conditions at the time when the Sideletter was created centered on the argument that the business models and profitability of New Media had yet to be seen. To keep up with the changing media landscape, the terms of Sideletter N are improved upon each negotiation cycle.

Streaming Media is a large and growing part of the entertainment industry. Since the previous negotiations cycle, the industry has seen the launch of Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock (each boasting 10 million+ subscribers, and Disney+ alone bringing in a record-shattering 100 million+ subscribers). Over the same period, existing streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video continue to grow and profit. It’s clear: Streaming Media plays an integral role in the entertainment industry.

Sideletter N FAQs

  • What is “New Media”?

    New Media refers to media produced for distribution over the internet. Streaming shows and movies whose original distribution was over the internet would be considered New Media. There is New Media language in the IATSE live-action agreements as well as the Guild’s agreement. The language is changed slightly to address some differences between live-action and animated content. New Media and SVOD (Subscription based Video On Demand) is the language used in our contract, but some prefer it to be called Streaming Media.

  • How does Sideletter N work?

    Sideletter N is complicated, but in a nutshell these are the terms it established:

    1. Creating a definition for what would be considered New Media within the Animation Guild agreement
    2. Establishing budget thresholds to differentiate between experimental, original, and high budget New Media productions
    3. Establishing terms that included wage minimums, benefits, and protections for workers on New Media productions based on these budget thresholds as well as seasons of the production (for serialized shows)
  • Have other entertainment unions made compromises in order to cover new media?

    Yes, all of the entertainment unions have made compromises. For above-the-line unions (DGA, WGA, SAG-AFTRA) these compromises currently take the form of lower residuals. For IATSE locals like the Animation Guild, these compromises are reduced wage minimums, as well as a reduction in holiday and vacation pay.

  • How do I find out what budget tier my production is under?

    Productions are required to report their budget tier for Sideletter N to the Guild. Contact the Guild to learn what tier your production is classified under.

  • Help! I’ve read all I can and I still don’t understand Sideletter N.

    Don’t worry — you’re not alone! Sideletter N is a nuanced portion of our contract that can be difficult to parse. We want every member to be able to understand the work that they’re doing, and part of our efforts to help streaming productions gain parity with broadcast is trying to make understanding the differences easier for you. The most reliable way to learn more is to contact the Guild Office; a staff member will be able to provide the most accurate information specific to your working experience. Fill out the contact form to get in touch, or send an e-mail to membership@tag839.org!

  • Budget Thresholds

    New Media productions can fall into one of three different budget thresholds:

    • High Budget – Tier 1 are programs with the highest budget per minute
    • High Budget – Tier 2 are programs with a medium budget per minute
    • Not High Budget are programs with lower budgets. Additionally, any program under 20 minutes long is considered Not High budget. Please refer to the chart below for further details.

    These classifications are defined by the length of a program versus the budget of that program. “Program” here means an episode of a show, a movie, or other individual unit of a media production.


    Very few productions fall under the Not High Budget threshold, and even fewer productions fall under High Budget – Tier 1. The majority of Sideletter N productions are covered by High Budget – Tier 2

     

      High Budget – Tier 1 High Budget -Tier 2 Not High Budget 
    <20 min n/a n/a All programs, regardless of cost*
    20-35 min $1,500,000 $550,000-$1,499,999 <$549,000
    36-65 min $3,800,000 $2,500,000-$3,799,999 <$2,490,000
    66-95 min $4,000,000 $3,000,000-$3,999,999 <$2,999,999
    ≥96 min $4,500,000

    (plus $2,250,000 for each additional 35 min or portion thereof)

    $3,000,000-$4,499,999

    (plus $2,250,000 for each additional 35 min or portion thereof)

    <$2,999,999

    *NOTE: For the purposes of the budget threshold, two 11-minute segments initially broadcast together as a unit count as one program, and are classified within the 20-35 minute range

    Sideletter N Terms

    Below is an outline of some of the differences between the terms of the Master CBA, High Budget New Media production, and Not High New Media production. Please note: Due to the complicated nature of Sideletter N, much of this information has been simplified. Please see the Master CBA for the exact terms of the agreement.

      Master CBA High Budget, Tier 1 High Budget, Tier 2 Not High Budget
    Wages Wage minimums are defined in the main agreement for a fixed period of time.  Wage minimums are 3% lower than the basic agreement for seasons 1 and 2, and then revert to the CBA. Wage minimums are 15% lower than the basic agreement for season 1, and 3% lower wage minimums for seasons 2 and 3, and then revert to the CBA. No minimums are required, workers must negotiate their wages entirely on their own.
    Pension Contributions  Yes Yes Yes No
    Vacation Employers are required to pay for vacation days. For unused vacation days, employers are required to pay out the amount to employees. Season 1: Employers are not required to pay employees for unused vacation. Season 2: Employers are required to pay half the rate of the CBA. Season 3 & beyond: the full amount is owed.  Season 1: Employers are not required to pay employees for unused vacation. Season 2 & 3: Employers are required to pay half the rate of the CBA. Season 4 & beyond: the full amount is owed.  Workers must negotiate their vacation time entirely on their own.
    Holiday Holidays are paid days off. Season 1: Employers are not required to pay holidays. Season 2: Employers are required to pay half the rate of the CBA. Season 3 & beyond: the full amount is owed.  Season 1: Employers are not required to pay holidays. Season 2 & 3: Employers are required to pay half the rate of the CBA. Season 4 & beyond: the full amount is owed.  Workers must negotiate their holiday time entirely on their own.