SAG-AFTRA Inks Deal With Zeus SVOD Service

Koury Angelo

The pact “is essential,” said union national executive director David White in an exclusive interview.

New media? That’s so 2008. Netflix? So, well, 2018, but what’s the next new thing? One answer might be platforms like ZEUS, a soon-to-debut subscription video-on-demand service built around three social media stars with a combined following of 70 million, annd at least one union is taking notice.

A decade after a hundred-day writers’ strike shook the industry in a dispute over webisodes and over internet platforms that didn’t exist yet — and a half-decade since Netflix began its meteoric rise — SAG-AFTRA has signed an agreement with ZEUS that it calls a “historic collaboration.”

Don’t look for ZEUS in your favorite app store quite yet: the debut is set for July 13, at a $3.99 per month price point. The service was founded by television executive producer Lemuel Plummer (Preachers of Detroit, Living with Funny) and co-founded by social media stars King Bach, Amanda Cerny and DeStorm Power.

“Content creators like ZEUS are clearly a big chunk of the future of media and entertainment,” said SAG-AFTRA national executive director David White in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “This partnership improves their ability to make premium content and ensure that they receive a fair share of the success of their work. And it’s what we as a union should be doing: keeping pace with ‘new new media,’ or emergent media.”

The SAG-AFTRA announcement came at a panel Tuesday during Social Media Week Los Angeles, an annual conference for influencers and others in the professional social media ecosystem. Similar events are held in New York, London and elsewhere. A union spokesperson said that Instagram posts about the new deal had garnered about 75,000 likes in a matter of hours, an outcome much to the union’s liking.

“This is hugely important,” White said. “In an instant, thousands of people heard we are a home for people they follow and love. ZEUS’s business model lives at the intersection of entertainment, technology and storytelling, and it is essential that we set a precedent to protect our members in this space.” The agreement provides coverage for content produced by ZEUS and a pathway to SAG-AFTRA membership for ZEUS onscreen content creators.

“The more normalized it is that content be covered by SAG-AFTRA, the more we safeguard our ability to thrive in the future,” White added. “We want membership in SAG-AFTRA to continue to be a given.”

“This partnership with SAG-AFTRA will establish ZEUS as a major player in the industry as we launch our network,” said Plummer, the company’s CEO and president. The platform, first announced in November, will be ad-free and feature what the company says is exclusive, premium original scripted and unscripted series and video content conceived, produced by and starring popular social media influencers including Cerny, Power and Bach, ranging from comedies and dramas to dance, talk and fitness programs.

“We are thrilled to partner with the extraordinary members of ZEUS in providing union coverage for their original and innovative platform. King Bach, DeStorm Power and Amanda Cerny are amazing content creators whose fresh, exciting voices are breaking new ground in the industry,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris.​​ “Together we are taking the next, natural step into the future of entertainment production and distribution.”

The agreement comes just days after the union reached a new agreement with some of its traditional bargaining partners, the four broadcast networks and other television producers. That “Netcode” deal covers an array of unscripted content and some non-primetime scripted fare as well.

“From the beginning, David White and SAG-AFTRA’s staff understood our vision of building a platform for creators and by creators, to provide our audiences with a unique streaming experience,” said Power, a co-president of the company. Added Bach, “ZEUS is a game-changer for the digital space. We can’t wait to unveil ZEUS to our fans.”

Said Cerny, “SAG-AFTRA is committed to protecting the rights of artists as they gravitate to more progressive platforms, and we are thrilled to work with them.”

Details of the deal were not released, but White said it built on existing low budget new media frameworks, and that the terms include residuals and pension and health contributions.