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Hiring AI talent in the Entertainment Industry
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10.6% Surge in Demand for AI Professionals over Mainstream Software jobs in H1 2023
In recent months, the US film and TV industry has ground to a startling halt, with screenwriters and actors going on the first concurrent strike since the 1960s. These strikes, led by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), have thrown production and release schedules into chaos, with numerous blockbuster films being delayed and TV shows put on pause. Disputes with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) over a number of topics, including pay, especially residuals from streaming, have led to a breakdown in negotiations and subsequent strike action.
One notable topic of contention was the concern from both screenwriters and actors around the use of AI in productions, especially with the advent of Generative AI and advances in digital performance generation using AI, posing a threat to job security and stability for both parties. For example, given the potential for Generative AI to produce creative & prosaic content that could mimic scripts, screenwriters were pushing for safeguards to ensure that such tools are used only to augment their work, rather than as a replacement for human creators. Similarly, studios have been experimenting with digitally created performances and ‘de-aging’ – particularly notable examples include the use of archival footage of Carrie Fisher (Disney/Lucasfilm), Peter Cushing (Disney/Lucasfilm), Sean Young (Warner Bros./Alcon), and Harrison Ford (Disney/Lucasfilm) to enable inclusion of their respective characters or younger versions of their characters in blockbuster sequels (Rogue One, Blade Runner 2049, Indiana Jones & the Dial of Destiny). Concerns that studios may employ AI-powered software to create fully digitally generated likenesses & performances at lower cost have therefore arisen for future projects, and actors are seeking protection from being cut out of appropriate compensation.
Although the WGA strike has recently been tentatively resolved, with a proposed deal in place covering each of these domains of concern, and renewed negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP are underway, the growing use of AI across industries and the subsequent impact on global workforces will continue to be a contentious topic, especially as ongoing advances drive new use cases and potential personnel savings.
In this report, we explore how AI-related job postings have fluctuated in the past 12 months, in the lead-up to and during the strikes, to understand how these AI advancements and subsequent strikes have affected demand for AI skills in these related industries. Aura collects publicly available data on a wide range of sources of job postings and enables analysis of trends in this data to uncover hiring insights of interest to both candidates and the industry.
Demand for AI roles & skills has remained roughly constant in the US but is growing in international markets
We looked at twelve months of job postings between September 2022 and August 2023, focusing on sub-sector tags relevant to these strikes within the Entertainment industry:

  • Writing & editing
  • Performing arts
  • Motion pictures & film
  • Media production
  • Entertainment
  • Broadcast media
Given that the strike action is centered around the USA, we have analyzed trends in the US market and other international markets separately.
We see that AI-related postings in the US have remained roughly stable over this period, both in terms of absolute numbers and as a proportion of overall job postings in this industry. A number of plausible explanations exist for why this might be the case. Firstly, it is possible that the writers’ & actors’ concerns were primarily focused on future safeguarding or were exaggerated, given that organizations are not significantly hiring and do not appear to be ramping up hiring of roles or skills that would substantially drive AI capabilities towards workforce displacement.
Equally, it is possible that the raising of concerns and subsequent strike action has dampened recruitment of these capabilities despite willingness or ‘appetite’ from production studios and other adjacent organizations to explore such opportunities – however, such ‘appetite’ may reignite once agreements are in place, within the bounds that have been jointly set between all parties (i.e., augmentation rather than a replacement). Additionally, the economic pressures generated by this strike action may be merely delaying the exploration of AI-related hiring.
Finally, it is also important to consider that outside of public job postings, relevant companies may be ‘stealthily’ conducting recruitment through other channels, especially if driven to do so to avoid backlash or other negative public sentiment in the context of these strikes. Regardless of the reason, ongoing monitoring of these trends should be performed to assess whether hiring patterns change as the situation continues to evolve.
On the other hand, we see a significant rise in AI-related hiring for non-US markets, with a ~75% increase as a proportion of total hiring (from 2.6% to 4.6%) over the twelve-month period. This trend suggests a significant appetite for developing AI capabilities within the entertainment industry, with companies seeing the value of AI skills to upgrade their product offerings or improve their operational processes. Interestingly, the onset of the WGA & SAG-AFTRA strikes and public discussion around the workforce-related concerns around AI usage has not dampened this global enthusiasm – it remains to be seen whether similar concerns, backlashes, and/or strike action will follow in these markets.
Leading US hirers of AI-related roles belong to adjacent companies, rather than major production studios
Interestingly, analysis of the top US-based companies developing their AI capabilities demonstrates that motion picture studios are not actively or openly arming their AI ‘warchest’.
As you can see above, none of the ‘Big Five’ film production studios are among the top hirers of AI-related roles over the last 12 months; in fact, major studios with AI postings are not even close: Sony Pictures Entertainment (14 postings), Universal (3 postings), Lionsgate (2 postings), Lucasfilm (2 postings). Instead, we see a number of adjacent companies leading the hiring of AI talent, with cable provider Cox Communications, video game studios Roblox, Electronic Arts & Activision Blizzard, and streaming giant Netflix recruiting significantly in this space.
Of particular note is the presence of these video game studios. AI has a number of use cases in video game production, from AI-supported procedural environment generation to digital performance generation, drawing significant parallels with the concerns and plight of screenwriters and motion picture actors. These concerns remain to be further explored; however, SAG-AFTRA has also initiated proceedings to commence a similar video game industry strike, which was also passed in favor by a massive majority.
It also remains to be seen whether Netflix AI hirings are targeting content production (ironic, given their recent production of Black Mirror S6E1 ‘Joan Is Awful,’ in which digital likenesses portray people against their will on the Netflix platform itself), bolstering their renowned content recommendation algorithm, or being applied to other projects.
Workforce & job posting analytics can surface insights about key events within an industry, unlocking a deeper understanding of organizational workforce changes and hiring patterns driving or driven by such events. Today, we have looked at one particularly topical example of the WGA / SAG-AFTRA entertainment industry strike action relating to AI concerns, and drawn associations between this event and relevant hiring trends.
At Aura, we support this type of analysis by making workforce & job posting data readily available, enabling comparison of relevant metrics between cohorts of companies to develop a deeper understanding of workforce trends and drive meaningful change.
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Matthew Chan
Product Economist, Aura


Note: All information mentioned in this report comes from publicly available data; if you believe the information on your company is incorrect, please reach out to us at:
aura@bain.com
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