Residuals FAQ

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TV/Theatrical Residuals 101

Actors deal with them on a regular basis, but the details of residuals structures and payments can still be a source of confusion. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

If you have any other questions, please contact us at:
Phone: 323-549-6505
Fax: 323-549-6550
Residual Inquiry Form

Residuals FAQ
What are residuals?

Residuals are compensation paid to performers for use of a theatrical motion picture or television program beyond the use covered by initial compensation. For TV work, residuals begin once a show starts re-airing or is released to video/DVD, pay television, broadcast TV, basic cable, or new media. For film work, residuals begin once the movie appears on video/DVD, basic cable and free or pay television, or new media.

What factors are my residuals based on?

Residuals are based on formulas that take into account such things as the contract in place during the specific year, time spent on the production, the production type and the market where the product appears (TV, video/DVD, pay television, basic cable, new media).

Who is entitled to receive residuals?

All performers hired under or upgraded to a principal performer agreement whose performance remains in the final product. This includes performers, professional singers, stunt performers, stunt coordinators, pilots, dancers employed under Schedule J and puppeteers.

Do background actors receive residuals?
No, background actors do not receive them—unless they are upgraded to principal performers.
Do I receive residuals for an initial release?

No. Initial compensation covers a project’s preliminary release for the market in which it was produced. Residuals are due only for use of a production in media markets beyond the exhibition covered by initial compensation.

When are residuals due?

Here’s a quick guide: Made-for-Television then released to:

  • Network Prime Time - 30 days after air date
  • Non-Prime Time Network - 30 days after air date
  • Syndication - 4 months after air date
  • Foreign Free TV - No later than 30 days after producer obtains knowledge of the first foreign telecast and never later than six months after that first telecast
  • Basic Cable – Quarterly when the producer receives revenue
  • Supplemental Markets – 4 months after initial exhibition, then quarterly when the producer receives revenue

Made-for-Theatrical then released to:

  • Network Prime Time - 30 days after initial broadcast, then quarterly when the producer receives revenue
  • Free TV, Non-Network - 4 months after initial broadcast, then quarterly when the producer receives revenue
  • Supplemental Markets - 4 months after initial exhibition, then quarterly when the producer receives revenue
How many times can I expect to receive residuals in any of the above markets?

There is no set answer. Payment depends on license agreements, the project’s commercial viability and when and how often the product airs. However, as long as the product is generating revenue for the producer, the performer is entitled to residuals (based on contract year and under which type the project was produced).

How many residuals checks does SAG-AFTRA process each year?

Between 1.5 million and 1.6 million paper checks are processed each year by the Union’s Residuals Department.

What should I do if I have not received residuals payments or believe my payment is incorrect?

First, make sure the Union has your correct contact information. If so, please fill out ‘Residuals Inquiry Form' or phone us at (800) 205-7716. Please provide your name, member number, project title and a brief description of the problem. You will be contacted promptly as to the actions being taken on your behalf and periodically updated as to the status, if necessary.

What is the most important thing I can do to ensure I get my residuals checks properly?
Keep your address and contact information current at all times – including contact information for loan-out companies.
How do I update my address for residual payments?

You can mail the SAG-AFTRA Residuals Trust Department at 5757 Wilshire Boulevard, 7th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90036. Performers may also submit their update request in writing by fax at (323) 549-6550. A signature is required in each case. If you are a member, you can also check out our handy online address change form in the members-only section of Please note – you must specifically request changes to loan-out company information. Loan-out company records ARE NOT AUTOMATICALLY UPDATED when a performer record is updated.

Will my heirs receive residuals?

Yes. All residuals will continue to flow to designated heirs as long as the TV or movie product continues to generate revenue for the producer. Remember, it’s an heir’s responsibility to keep his/her mailing address up to date with SAG-AFTRA. Heirs can also visit the unclaimed residuals section of the website.

How do heirs go about collecting residuals?

Heirs should contact the Residuals Estates Department either by email to or by telephone at (323) 549-6557. Your heirs should also contact the SAG Pension and Health office through or AFTRA Health and Retirement office through for information concerning other possible benefits.

Unclaimed Residuals
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