Netflix offering up to $900k for A.I. job as actors and writers strike

Netflix is hiring more A.I. (artificial intelligence) workers as actors continue their strike to have more control over how their images will be used. 

The tech company produces dozens of movies and shows for streaming and has been the target of striking actors in the Bay Area.  

Netflix recently posted an A.I. product manager position that could pay up $900,000 a year. A tech expert says the company has been using A.I. for years, and new job postings indicate use of A.I. technology will continue at the company and improve.  

"I don’t expect them to back away from A.I. We just expect to be compensated fairly," said Michael Sommers, an Oakland-based SAG-AFTRA actor.   

Thousands of actors with the Screen Actors Guild have been on strike for over a month and the use artificial intelligence technology for content is one of the major issues actors and writers are negotiating. Sommers has a show on Netflix and has been a SAG-AFTRA member for 28 years. 

"One of the concerns is that I could develop a character that they fall in love with, and then they don’t need to hire me anymore in order to portray that character," Sommers said.  

Netflix and other production companies show no signs they won’t continue using and developing A.I. technology. Board President for SAG-AFTRA's San Francisco chapter says actors should have a say about compensation and how their images are used.

"What they want to do is take a background actor, for example, scan their image, pay them for a half-a-day, and then use their image in perpetuity," said Kathryn Howell, SAG-AFTRA San Francisco/Northern CA Chapter Board President. "Put them in the background here, there, everywhere."

Just last week Los Gatos-based Netflix was the target of SAG-AFTRA picketers. Tech reporter Ian Sherr says A.I. has vastly improved in the last few years, and many companies, including Netflix, are testing how best to use it. 

"Companies are saying look, ‘I’m just going to fire the people who I used to pay a lot of money to write something and instead, I’ll have the computer do it,’" Sherr said. "You might think that’s ridiculous, but it’s actually already started to happen, which is partly why you keep hearing this debate coming up."

The Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers say they’ve offered to double minimum pay wages and to get permission before duplicating their images. SAG-AFTRA says studios only want to pay for one day of A.I. work, and actors won’t get paid any other time the images are used.