As other posts to this blog have demonstrated, the TV show F.R.I.E.N.D.S illustrates many negotiation techniques, from Monica and Rachel persuading Chandler and Joey to relinquish their apartment after they lost it in a bet (who knew Chandler wasn’t a transponster?), to Phoebe’s interesting haggling techniques (“we’ll give you ten dollars!”). However, perhaps last well known are the negotiation techniques the actual cast used to negotiate their salaries as the programme’s popularity escalated.
They successfully managed to negotiate a payment of $1 million per episode, not only that, but each member of the cast also received a proportion of the profits of the show, a financial benefit which was previously only given out to those who had ownership rights to the show. This must have taken some serious negotiation, and the cast went about this in a very different way. See, the cast were not just co-workers, they truly became friends, and by Series Two discrepancies in the salaries being paid to the main cast became clear- some of the cast were being paid $20,000 per episode, while other members of the cast were being paid $40,000. You’d think this might cause tension in the group, but the cast were such good friends that they just wanted each cast member to be treated fairly. Therefore before the third season, the cast entered collective negotiations, despite Warner Bros’ insistence on individual salary deals. Collective bargaining in this manner has found to be effective in negotiation of police agents salaries (Wilson et al., 2006).The F.R.I.E.N.D.S. cast banded together for salary negotiations and said they would not continue with the show and would not turn up for recording of the series if their wages were not equalised.
While this doesn’t sound like a good idea for Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer (the highest paid members of the cast) as it means all of the actors were given the salary of the least paid cast member, meaning a decrease for them, this puts the whole cast in a very strong position for future negotiation. Once NBC agreed to negotiate with the cast as a unit, they lost all leverage in all future negotiations, and this is what resulted in the huge million pound contracts by the end of the show’s run. NBC have to meet the cast’s demands or they will quit. If each salary was separate and one cast member wouldn’t acquiesce to the producer’s demands, he can be written out. But the whole cast cannot be written out!
NBC know their alternatives, knowledge of alternatives have a profound effect on the outcome of a negotiation (Pinkley et al., 1994), if they do not acquiesce to the demands of the unified cast- they will all quit and the show cannot go on. F.R.I.E.N.D.S was one of the most successful programmes of the time, ratings were high and profit was rolling in. NBC cannot afford to lose the programme, therefore they must acquiesce to the cast’s demands. NBC is at a disadvantage because they have a lower BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement), if the negotiations fail the cast (all big stars who are simultaneously working on film projects) will go on and work for other series, but for the producers failed negotiations mean their show will crumble. Therefore negotiations must centre on keeping the cast happy. Furthermore, the next series is about to be filmed and with the cast threatening not to turn up to recording, this issue must be sorted as soon as possible. Time pressure has been shown to be another large effect on negotiation (Benton et al., 1972).
The cast could (and did!) ask for their total wage to be increased for everyone as each series passed, until they reached the wage of $1 million per episode each for the last two series, not to mention royalties! The cast have solidarity, the all-for-one and one-for-all attitude which has contributed to their success.
- Benton, A. A., Kelley, H. H., Liebling, B. (1972). Effects of extremity of offers and concession rate on the outcomes of bargaining. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 24, 73-83.
- Pinkley, R. L., Neale, M. A., & Bennett, R. J. (1994). The impact of alternatives to settlement in dyadic negotiation. Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, 57, 97-116.
- Wilson, S., Zhao, J., Ren, L., & Briggs, S. (2006). The influence of collective bargaining on large police agency salaries: 1990-2000. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 31, 19-34.