EXCLUSIVE: Bob Iger finally had his wish come true today
“I’m elated,” the Disney CEO told Deadline Wednesday tonight of his reaction to the deal between SAG-AFTRA and the studios.
“It’s been, as you know, a long summer in this town and it’s an industry that really needs to get back to work and wants to get back to work, Iger added at the Wish premiere in Hollywood just hours after the tentative agreement with the guild was made public. “I’m gonna be one of those people that’s just cheering the return to production in this community.”
Iger’s remarks late tonight come after a long 24 hours for the exec, the guild and the industry.
The 118th day of the strike, Wednesday saw hopes dashed for a Tuesday night deal, a rough-ish Q3 earnings result for Disney, worries about 2024 and the AMPTP putting SAG-AFTRA on notice. In a risky move that could have very easily gone South, the studios told the guild that if they didn’t get a response by 5 pm PT, they might have to take their ball and go home. To further the jump to hyperspace, SAG-AFTRA’s 17-member negotiating committee were in the process of voting on whether to approve the deal with the studios and its “unprecedented provisions,” as the guild later termed it, as the clock was ticking on the AMPTP’s threat.
In the end, every member of the negotiation committee voted for the deal and it was all done before 5 pm PT
Now, with the strike officially ending at 12:01 am PT November 9 and hopes for getting the TV season and next year’s movie slate back on track, Iger could reflect on all that had gone down and what is ahead.
“It was time,” he said of the tentative agreement, that still has to be approved by the SAG-AFTRA board and ratified by eligible members of the 160,000-strong guild. “I’m really happy that we were able to reach an agreement with SAG after such a long period of time for the actors and that’ll be it,” Iger noted at the El Capitan Theatre for the Jennifer Lee penned animated musical comedy.
“Welcome back,” the talent friendly CEO concluded in a direct message to actors.
A pivotal member in both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA negotiations over the past several months as one of the CEOs Gang of Four, Iger got off to a rocky start in the labor actions earlier this summer when he referred to guild demands as “just not realistic” and “very disruptive” in a TV interview.
Replacing Warner Bros Discovery’s David Zaslav as the CEO must reviled on the picket lines, the usually extremely smooth Iger initially left Disney’s day-to-day presence in the talks to Dana Walden and Alan Bergman. However, when renewed talks with the scribes started in August and later more successfully again in September. Iger, along with Netflix’s Ted Sarandos., NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley and Warner Bros Discovery’s Zaslav, became much more engaged.
Working back channels and leaning into long term relationships with the likes of the WGA’s Chris Keyser, Iger returned to his old self in the final days of the WGA talks that resulted in a deal on September 24. It was pretty much the same during the SAG-AFTRA negotiations, with Iger being the one to call guild chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland on the 100th day of that labor action to suggested a renewal of talks on October 24. Though egos flared and Iger was said to have lost “his sh*t” at once stage in the SAG-AFTRA deliberations, overall, the CEOs presence in the talks was widely seen as productive.
“First of all, let me begin by saying I have the utmost respect for actors,” Iger expressed in his live interview with CNBC today. “They’re an incredibly important part of The Walt Disney Company for obvious reasons. And we’ve been hard at work. We, the companies involved in this business, as well as the Screen Actors Guild, in trying to figure out a way to get them back to work.”
With the actors guild and the studios now at peace, production is expected to ramp up rapidly — getting not just talent, but below-the-lines workers and many more back to work.