Netflix lists $900,000 AI job amid SAG-AFTRA strike for protections against ‘scary’ technology

Hollywood has been effectively shut down as actors and writers are protesting studios and streamers

Inga Parkel
Thursday 27 July 2023 07:42 BST
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Brian Cox says AI is 'real scare' at SAG-AFTRA and WGA rally

Netflix is facing criticism for listing an artificial intelligence (AI) product manager role worth an upwards salary of $900,000 (£698,900) amid the ongoing actors’ and writers’ strike.

Hollywood has been effectively shut down since 14 July, when the Screen Actors Guild of America – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) joined its fellow screenwriters’ union, the Writers Guild of America (WGA), in the fight for increased base pay, higher streaming residuals and assurances that their work won’t be replaced by AI.

The latter point has been a chief concern among several high-profile actors, including Succession star Brian Cox who raged against the “scary” technology last week during a solidarity rally in London.

“The wages are one thing, but the worst aspect is the whole idea of AI and what AI can do to us,” the 77-year-old Scottish actor said in an impassioned tirade.

However, even as fears of AI not only taking over jobs but also actors’ likenesses grow, Netflix appears to remain strong in its investment in the technology.

At current, the streaming conglomerate’s job board includes a position for a Product Manager – Machine Learning Platform. It notes that the overall salary range for this role is “typically $300,000 to $900,000”.

The listing states that the person in the position will “collect feedback and understand user needs from ML/AI practitioners and application engineers across Netflix, deriving product requirements and sizing their importance to then prioritise areas of investment”.

Netflix job listing screenshot
Netflix job listing screenshot (Netflix.com)

Writer, actor and comedian Rob Delaney (Catastrophe), who stood alongside Cox at the rally, reacted to the job listing, calling it “ghoulish”.

“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,” the comedian, 46, told The Intercept.

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“Having been poor and rich in this business, I can assure you there’s enough money to go around; it’s just about priorities.”

Netflix declined to respond to The Independent’s request for comment.

Other TV and movie actors, such as Matilda child star Mara Wilson, romcom staple John Cusack and This Is Us’s Mandy Moore, have shared their “appalling” pay stories in order to highlight the importance of the historic strike.

Hours before the strike action was ordered on 13 July, Disney CEO Bob Iger criticised the decision, saying it was “very disturbing to me”.

“This is the worst time in the world to add to that disruption,” he said, adding: “There’s a level of expectation that they have that is just not realistic.”

Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston is the latest to respond to Iger’s message.

The 67-year-old actor said on Tuesday (25 July) from the front lines of New York’s “Rock the City for a Fair Contract” rally: “I know, sir, that you look [at] things through a different lens. We don’t expect you to understand who we are. But we ask you to hear us, and beyond that to listen to us when we tell you we will not be having our jobs taken away and given to robots.”

“We will not have you take away our right to work and earn a decent living. And lastly, and most importantly, we will not allow you to take away our dignity! We are union through and through, all the way to the end!”

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