Writers Guild and SAG AFTRA members on a picket line protesting Netflix's refusal to pay fair wages and safeguard against AI

Netflix Won’t Pay Writers or Actors, Will Pay Almost $1 Million For an AI Product Manager

Stop me if you heard this one, but one of the streamers is doing something shady regarding AI. This time it’s Netflix, and they’re hiring an AI Product Manager to the tune of $900,000 per year. Excuse me, what?! Per The Intercept:

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While entertainment firms like Disney have declined to go into specifics about the nature of their investments in artificial intelligence, job postings and financial disclosures reviewed by The Intercept reveal new details about the extent of these companies’ embrace of the technology.

In one case, Netflix is offering as much as $900,000 for a single AI product manager. 

As a reminder, one of the reasons why SAG-AFTRA is on strike is the ability to safeguard an actor’s likeness from AI taking it over, and studios from owning it in perpetuity. Similarly, one of the Writers’ Guild’s big reasons for striking is studios’ refusal to institute extremely basic regulatory standards around how AI is used in writing.

To add insult to injury, the damn job at Netflix has the possibility for remote work for the position, too. Just picture it, you can ruin the entertainment industry from the comfort of your own home while in your pajamas. The salary range for the role is $300,000 up to $900,000 and according to the job listing, part of the duties include “[ensuring] product success throughout the entire lifecycle of strategically important initiatives, from ideation to full launch and ongoing support.”

Here’s a really crappy fact to drive the point home just how ill-timed this job posting is for Netflix: 87 percent of actors make less than $26,000 per year via acting, which is the bare minimum threshold in order to obtain health benefits via their union, SAG-AFTRA. Yet the streamers can afford an almost $1 million dollar per year position to further progress its machine learning initiatives? Don’t you need actors to create performances in movies and TV in order to even have a platform? Yet the studios and streaming platforms are insisting there is no more money in the bank to pay them more. Now, I’m not a math major by any means but even to me, that math simply doesn’t math up.

I’m not the only one who is seeing through Netflix’s BS. Per The Intercept:

“So $900k/yr per soldier in their godless AI army when that amount of earnings could qualify thirty-five actors and their families for SAG-AFTRA health insurance is just ghoulish,” actor Rob Delaney, who had a lead role in the “Black Mirror” episode, told The Intercept. “Having been poor and rich in this business, I can assure you there’s enough money to go around; it’s just about priorities.”

To be extremely clear, this is not a creative role. The job listing calls for applicants with “a technical background in engineering and/or machine learning.” It also says this role will, among other things, help the platform “buy and create great content” so this clearly isn’t just a position to improve the algorithm’s recommendations to users.

What sort of dystopian hellscape future are we living in, when engineers without any artistic training could truly be in charge of the entire entertainment industry? Oh, I know, the one created and controlled by MBAs who run the studios and streamer platforms rather than artists!

This isn’t just Netflix, either; Disney is also hiring for AI roles. (Reminder, that Disney CEO Bob Iger’s annual compensation package is approximately $27 million dollars per year. What does he even do other than dismantle the entertainment industry from the inside?!) Per The Intercept:

Disney has also listed job openings for AI-related positions. In one, the entertainment giant is looking for a senior AI engineer to “drive innovation across our cinematic pipelines and theatrical experiences.” The posting mentions several big name Disney studios where AI is already playing a role, including Marvel, Walt Disney Animation, and Pixar.

Well, this is all really horrifying. Thank goodness for unions, is all I can say. Pay writers and actors what they’re worth. (And I mean actually worth not what some CEO thinks they’re worth.) Protect labor. Don’t be a part of the dismantling of art. If you’re qualified for any of the AI roles being posted, maybe think long and hard if it’s the right thing to do. That’s all I got, folks. We just have to see how this pans out.

(Featured image: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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Image of Kate Hudson
Kate Hudson
Kate Hudson (no, not that one) has been writing about pop culture and reality TV in particular for six years, and is a Contributing Writer at The Mary Sue. With a deep and unwavering love of Twilight and Con Air, she absolutely understands her taste in pop culture is both wonderful and terrible at the same time. She is the co-host of the popular Bravo trivia podcast Bravo Replay, and her favorite Bravolebrity is Kate Chastain, and not because they have the same first name, but it helps.