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Netflix's AI Job Listings

Netflix’s AI Job Listings Spark Controversy Amidst Hollywood Strikes

Netflix’s recent job advertisement for an AI specialist, attracting an annual salary of up to £700,000, has caused a stir amongst Hollywood actors and writers currently embroiled in strike action.

Union members have been vocal about their grievances, focusing on how AI could potentially reshape the entertainment industry and its payment structure.

The job vacancy, brought to light by The Intercept last Tuesday, is one of many featured on Netflix’s recruitment page requiring expertise in machine learning and AI. However, the listing remains somewhat ambiguous, not clarifying whether the role will provide advice on content choices or the movies and TV programmes that Netflix elects to back financially.

AI’s Role in Funding Decisions

Another job opening for a product manager position within the Machine Learning Platform team suggests that the prospective employee will be tasked with “collecting feedback and understanding user needs”, which could be instrumental in shaping investment decisions.

These descriptions appear to hint at the use of AI in assessing the funding requirements for different projects.

Sag-Aftra, the union representing actors, has expressed concern that these algorithms wield too much influence.

In an interview with Time magazine, Sag-Aftra’s Fran Drescher argued that the ultimate success of a film or television programme is now less crucial than in the heyday of broadcast television.

She stated, “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 added, “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.”

Regulating AI in the Creative Process

In response to these concerns, the Writers’ Guild (WGA) has proposed a system that regulates the use of AI in the writing process, aiming to prevent it from being used as source material.

Netflix, however, refrained from commenting on the job listings but maintained its stance that AI will not usurp the creative process.

They stated, “The best stories are original, insightful and often come from people’s own experiences.” This sentiment, though, was not shared by some striking actors, such as Rob Delaney, who told The Intercept, “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.”

Javier Grillo-Marxuach, renowned 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 launched a new app – My Netflix, designed to offer a personalised experience to users with easy shortcuts to their preferred viewing options.

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AI: A Double-Edged Sword?

Although AI is perceived as a threat to numerous job roles, it has also generated new positions with lucrative salaries.

In July, Netflix advertised for a product manager within its Machine Learning Platform (MLP), offering a salary that ranged from $300,000 to $900,000.

The role involves utilising AI across the entire Netflix business scope, encompassing content acquisition and personalising user recommendations. Concurrently, Netflix is seeking a technical director for its Game Studio, focusing on AI/ML technology, with a starting salary of $650,000.

As the three-month writers’ strike continues, artists and performers are demanding higher wages and residuals from streaming giants and increased AI regulation.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the national executive director and chief negotiator of the actors union SAG-AFTRA, termed the emergence of AI as an “existential threat” to actors’ livelihoods.

The strikers’ primary contention is that AI should be a tool to augment ideas, not replace writers.

While many streaming services have not officially commented on AI, HBO CEO Casey Bloys has voiced his opposition, stating, “The idea that AI would be involved in any sort of development or the creative process in the kinds of shows that I do, or we do, at HBO, that’s not something I want to be a part of.”

However, the demand for AI expertise is on the rise, with companies offering six-figure salaries for such roles.

In April, a report by ResumeBuilder, which surveyed 1,187 business leaders in the US, revealed that 91% of hiring leaders were searching for workers with ChatGPT experience. Furthermore, a quarter of employers predicted that the starting salary for AI “prompt engineers” would surpass $200,000, with 17% foreseeing it exceeding $300,000.

AI’s Impact on Screenwriting

Meanwhile, Hollywood screenwriter Michelle Amor, along with other US television and film writers, has expressed her fear about the impact of AI on her livelihood.

Expressing her concerns, she said, “I don’t want to be replaced with something artificial.”

The writers and their union – the Writers Guild of America – are pressing for limits on the future use of AI-powered writing tools, such as ChatGPT, insisting they should be used strictly for research purposes and never to replace them.

But there are differing opinions. Scott Rowe, a spokesperson for The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, says AI raises complex, critical, creative and legal questions. He also believes writers want to use AI technology as part of their creative process without affecting how credits are determined.

Chun Xia, a founding partner of technology investment firm TSVC, predicts a future where sitcom writers use AI-generated scripts as a starting point for further development.

John Pollono, a writer, director and actor, however, criticised the idea of AI being used to write the first drafts of scripts. Meanwhile, screenwriter Sara Bibel dismisses AI’s ability for creative writing, calling it a “glorified auto-correct.”

Only time will reveal AI’s true impact and role in the world of entertainment, but it’s clear that the discussion around its use is only just beginning.

Rebecca Taylor

Rebecca is our AI news writer. A graduate of Leeds University with an International Journalism MA, she possesses a keen eye for the latest AI developments. Rebecca’s passion for AI, and with her journalistic expertise, brings insightful news stories for our readers.

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