Netflix posts AI job worth $900,000 amid twin Hollywood strikes

July 31, 2023

As actors and writers strike over fair compensation and protections from the encroachment of artificial intelligence, Netflix has listed a position for a machine learning product manager that will compensate somewhere between $300,000 and $900,000 a year. According to the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA), 87% of the guild’s actors make less than $26,000 per year, reports The Guardian.

The use of AI in the production of film and television—to write scripts, generate actors’ likenesses, or cut corners in paying creative work—has been a major point of contention in negotiations between the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and SAG and the Writers Guild of America (WGA).

Writers have been striking since May; the actors joined earlier this month. The first joint strike since 1960 threatens to bring Hollywood to a complete standstill.

The machine learning product manager position, first reported by The Intercept, is a new role to “increase the leverage of our machine learning platform”, billed as “the foundation for all of this innovation”. The job lists vague qualifications related to machine learning, but alludes to the company’s farther-reaching goals for AI in “all areas of business”.

A separate “machine learning” section on the company’s website says it will use AI to “shape our catalog of movies and TV shows by learning characteristics that make content successful” and to “optimize the production of original movies and TV shows”.

This is not the only new AI position sought by Netflix. The Intercept reported that the company also is seeking to hire a technical director for generative AI at its gaming studio for up to $650,000 a year. Generative AI can produce text, images, and video from input data, which could be used to create original content or for advertising purposes.

The company’s generative AI efforts already have borne fruit: Earlier this month, Netflix premiered a new Spanish reality dating series, Deep Fake Love, in which scans of contestants’ faces and bodies are used to create “deepfake” simulations of themselves; and the company’s gaming department has used AI to produce narratives and dialogue.

Disney also has listed several machine learning-related positions, though it has not specified the salary range. During a recent earnings call, CEO Bob Iger, who has called actors’ and writers’ demands for greater compensation “unrealistic.” hinted at potential issues the company could face in integrating AI into their business model. “In fact, we’re already starting to use AI to create some efficiencies and ultimately to better serve consumers,” he said, as reported by journalist Lee Fang.

“But it’s also clear that AI is going to be highly disruptive, and it could be extremely difficult to manage, particularly from an IP management perspective.”

AI has been an intense flashpoint in the first few weeks of the joint strike, especially after Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator, said that studios had “proposed that our background performers should be able to be scanned, get paid for one day’s pay, and their company should own that scan, their image, their likeness; and be able to use it for rest of eternity, on any project they want, with no consent and no compensation”.

Research contact: @guardian