Actors Battle Netflix Over AI Job Vacancy Advert


ByDon Pedro Aganbi

Aug 2, 2023

Netflix has triggered an angry response from striking Hollywood actors and writers after posting a job advert for an artificial intelligence (AI) expert.

The new position would join its Machine Learning Platform team, which drives the Netflix algorithm helping viewers pick new programmes to watch.

It pays up to $900,000 (£700,000) per year, fuelling further outrage.

Hollywood unions are striking over concerns about how AI affects the entertainment industry and pay.

The job listing, which was first reported by The Intercept on Tuesday, is one of several listed on the Netflix job page that calls for applicants with experience in machine learning (ML) and AI.

It is unclear from the expansive job advert whether the role will advise on content – the TV programmes and films that Netflix chooses to invest in.

Another open listing for a product manager on the Machine Learning Platform team says the future employee will “collect feedback and understand user needs” and ultimately helping with investment decisions.

The description appears to suggest that the role will include using AI to assess funding needs for different programmes.

This is a key concern of the union representing actors, Sag-Aftra, which has spoken of its fears that algorithms have too much power.

Sag-Aftra’s Fran Drescher told Time magazine the singular success of any film or television programme is now much less important than when broadcast television was dominant.

“Algorithms dictate how many episodes a season needs to be before you reach a plateau of new subscribers and how many seasons a series needs to be on,” she claimed.

“That reduces the amount of episodes per season to between six and 10, and it reduces the amount of seasons to three or four. You can’t live on that.

“We’re being systematically squeezed out of our livelihood by a business model that was foisted upon us, that has created a myriad of problems for everyone up and down the ladder.”

The writers’ guild, WGA, has proposed a system that regulates the use of AI in the writing process and prevents it being used as source material.

Netflix declined to comment about the job listings, but has previously said AI will not replace the creative process.

“The best stories are original, insightful and often come from people’s own experiences,” Netflix has said.

The news of the most recent AI-based job listing was condemned by some striking actors, who must earn $26,470 before being eligible for health insurance benefits.

“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, told The Intercept.

Javier Grillo-Marxuach, who is best known for the series Lost, accused Netflix of “pleading poverty while recruiting VERY (more than I’ve ever made in a year BY FAR) well-paid generals for your soulless army of silicon plagiarists”.

Earlier this week, Netflix announced the launch of a new app – My Netflix – which the company calls “a one-stop shop tailored to you with easy shortcuts to help you choose what you want to watch”.


By Don Pedro Aganbi

Don Pedro Aganbi is a Nigerian Journalist, broadcaster, Filmmaker, brand and Public Relations Specialist and 1st prize winner, TV category, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) & Africa Information Society Initiatives (AISI) Awards. He is also a recipient of the Global IT Champion Awards, courtesy of World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA). He is the Founder/Managing Partner, TechTV Network and convener of the hugely popular Titans of Tech Awards, Pan African Digital Initiative Summit & Expo and the TechTV Digital Agenda Forum. Don Pedro Aganbi is the producer and host of the popular international award winning TV show, TechTV.

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