‘On My Block’ Season 3 In Limbo Over Cast Contract Renegotiation Impasse

Just like the case of 13 Reasons Why last summer, it is getting down to the wire for the core cast of a popular Netflix teen series to complete salary renegotiations going into Season 3.

About two weeks before the cast of coming-of-age comedy On My Block is scheduled to convene for the first Season 3 table read, the series’ lead quartet Sierra Capri, Jason Genao, Brett Gray and Diego Tinoco are still at a standstill with Netflix in their salary renegotiation talks, with the two sides very far apart.

I hear reps for the four, who each made $20,000 an episode in the first two seasons, went into the negotiations with an opening salvo of $250,000 an episode. I hear Netflix countered with an offer for $40,000 an episode, leading to a $225,000 an episode response from the actors’ camp.

Since then, there has been no communication, with reps waiting for a response or counter from Netflix. Meanwhile, I hear Netflix is yet to formally pick up the actors’ options, which is needed for them to continue, or pay relocation fees for the cast to travel to Los Angeles for the table read and filming.

While actors sign multi-year deals when cast in a series (usually around six), it is customary for the performers of successful shows to seek raises after Season 2. The impetus for the salary demands by the On My Block cast was likely the big raises that the young casts of two hit Netflix series, Stranger Things, and 13 Reasons Why got heading into Season 3. The kids on Stranger Things reportedly went from around $30,000 to around $250,000 an episode, while the young cast members of 13 Reasons Why are said to have gone from $20,000 – $80,000 an episode to $150,000 – $200,000. an episode.

While Netflix has revealed record premiere viewership for the two most recent seasons of Stranger Things and its executives have acknowledged publicly that 13 Reasons Why is among the platform’s most popular series, the streamer is notorious about guarding ratings information, leaving producers guessing about the true success of their shows. Still, On My Block is believed to be doing very well. Underscoring its popularity, the comedy won Breakout Show Teen Choice Award last year, which is voted by fans.

And in an year-end ranking released by Netflix, On My Block was listed as the service’s #1 most binged show for the calendar 2018 in the US, ahead of such hits as Making a Murderer, 13 Reasons Why, Bodyguard, The Haunting Of Hill House and Orange Is the New Black. While this reflects the average watch time per viewing session and not overall viewership, the metric is important for streamers as such high engagement drives subscriptions.

I hear one of Netflix’s arguments for resisting a major salary increase for the On My Block cast is that the series is done under the service’s “low-budget model” with a budget of about $2 million an episode, significantly below the cost of a high-end Netflix series.

But if, despite its lower budget, On My Block is able to perform on par and sometimes better than far more expensive Netflix series, that should serve to the creative auspices and talent’s advantage that they are delivering a profitable show and should be rewarded.

Also, the core cast of On My Block is far smaller than that of other younger-skewing Netflix series, including Stranger Things and 13 Reasons Why. Additionally, Netflix trimmed On My Block’s order size from 10 episodes in the first two seasons to 8 for Season 3, meaning that the actors’ overall compensation will go down without a raise.

And then there is the inclusion aspect. On My Block is a rare Netflix series with a cast whose members are actors of color, so the issue of equal pay is coming up in conversations. Additionally, On My Block, which depicts a group that has been underrepresented  on TV, inner city youth, has been used by Netflix executives as an example of their commitment to diverse storytelling following the recent cancellation of One Day at a Time. 

On My Block, from Awkward creator Lauren Iungerich, Eddie Gonzalez and Jeremy Haft, is a coming-of-age comedy about bright and street-savvy friends navigating their way through the triumph, pain and the newness of high school in LA’s South Central neighborhood. The series’ writers have been working since April, churning out scripts for the upcoming third season.

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