Grey’s Anatomy Star Furious With Netflix Over Cheap Payments

By Charlene Badasie | Updated

grey's anatomy
Grey’s Anatomy

Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo called out Netflix over its failure to pay residuals to actors. The actress, who portrayed Meredith Grey for 18 seasons, used a TikTok meme shared by the streamer to make her feelings known. Adding the image of her character looking annoyed to her Instagram stories, she wrote, “Also me when Netflix doesn’t pay actors residuals holla let’s talk.”

Screenshot from Ellen Pompeo‘s Instagram story

Actors’ compensation for projects like Grey’s Anatomy, licensed to streaming platforms like Netflix, currently comes from the studios responsible for producing the content. However, this arrangement has become a major point of contention in the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes. The unions are advocating for streamers to pay them residuals directly in addition to the fees paid to the studios.

Other Actors Speaking Out

Several actors have raised their voices on this issue, drawing attention to the meager residual payments they receive from streaming services. Mandy Moore revealed that her residuals from This Is Us streaming on Hulu have been as little as a penny. Actors from Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black have also shared stories of their inadequate compensation and residuals.

A significant number of SAG-AFTRA members rely on residuals to qualify for health care, with the threshold at $26,000. However, with residuals steadily diminishing, it has become increasingly challenging for working actors to meet this requirement. Adding to the complexity, studios, and streamers have been reluctant to disclose viewership data for shows like Grey’s Anatomy.

While shows like Grey’s Anatomy remain in the dark, Netflix shares precise viewership data with creators in some countries.

This prevents highly popular streaming series from having their success accurately reflected in the residuals paid to actors. To address the problem, SAG-AFTRA proposed using metrics from third-party firms as an alternative to traditional data, but the AMPTP rejected the proposal. While shows like Grey’s Anatomy remain in the dark, Netflix shares precise viewership data with creators in some countries.

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Ellen Pompeo in Grey’s Anatomy

French programs watched on Netflix in France, Luxembourg, and Belgium pay royalties to the rights owners every quarter. This is due to a 2014 agreement between the streamer and the country’s copyright management industry associations. According to AllYourScreens, rights holders receive detailed information about viewership numbers and are paid accordingly based on those figures.

This transparency and fair compensation demonstrate that Netflix can implement similar practices and appropriately compensate shows like Grey’s Anatomy. However, it might require a strike for these changes to take effect.

Grey’s Anatomy

Grey’s Anatomy has proven to be a highly successful addition to Netflix. Based on Nielsen’s data, the Shonda Rhimes drama secured a spot in the top 15 of the largest streaming shows across all platforms in 2022, surpassing Criminal Minds, The Simpsons, Cobra Kai, and Seinfeld in viewership. The series also raked in an impressive total of over 26.8 billion minutes of viewing time in the past year.

Grey’s Anatomy debuted on ABC in March 2005. The series delves into the lives of surgical interns, residents, and attending physicians at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. Spanning 18 seasons, the show centers predominantly on Dr. Meredith Grey, who happens to be the daughter of a famous surgeon.

The actress exited her permanent role on Grey’s Anatomy in the second half of season 19, opting for guest appearances instead.