Is streaming bad for Hollywood?


Streaming is taking America by storm and it’s even taking home Oscars. Nearly 60 percent of Americans have some form of streaming service, and over half of U.S. streamers subscribe to Netflix. As streaming dramatically changes the media habits of Americans, its disruption of an American tradition – Hollywood filmmaking and the Academy Awards – is making waves.

Iconic film director Steven Spielberg is pushing for a rule change that would prevent Netflix from duplicating the statues it got in February in next year’s Academy Awards. The Netflix film “Roma” took home three Oscars. To do that, it met existing Academy rules while simultaneously putting the movie out on its worldwide streaming platform. Spielberg and others say the industry’s highest honors have always been a competition among studios that make movies for theatrical release.

“Most studios don’t have a platform that enables instantaneous, worldwide release,” says author Meredith Jordan, whose book, Below The Line: Anatomy of a Successful Movie, provides a rare behind-the-scenes look at the making of an A-list Hollywood film. “The issue isn’t whether Netflix can compete as a studio. It just needs to compete as a studio, without using the tools of its larger streaming business.”

Currently, Academy rules stipulate that a movie needs seven consecutive days in theatrical release in either New York or Los Angeles to qualify for award consideration.  Spielberg reportedly seeks a change that would require a one-month theatrical release.

“It’s not unreasonable to think about streaming in the context of what happened when television went mass market,” Jordan said. “If this were 1975, ‘Roma’ would be a truly outstanding made-for-TV movie being put on one of the major networks while also going into theaters for a couple of weeks, and then qualifying for competition as a feature.

“The Academy periodically updates its rules to address cultural shifts, most recently in 2012,” she said. “This is one of those times.”

Jordan says streaming’s disruptive impact on Hollywood and modern media in general comes down to three main factors:

Building massive scale in subscribers and content. Netflix is rapidly approaching 150 million subscribers. Continually increasing capital allows Netflix to create tons of content. Last year, Netflix reportedly spent over $10 billion on new content. “They say ‘Roma’ cost $15 million to make and Netflix spent more than three times that advertising ‘Roma’ for the Oscars,” Jordan said. “Most studios use traditional marketing and distribution methods, and then later make additional advertising spends to promote a movie in contention.”

Luring big stars. “Netflix is playing a different game,” Jordan says. “It’s outbidding studios for top talent. While it doesn’t provide the back-end perks of traditional studio deals, Netflix replaces those with generous upfront payments.” In 2018, Netflix’s original films included starring roles by Will Smith, Sandra Bullock, and Jennifer Aniston.

Having distribution control. A subscriber-based business model at a relatively low fee has been a huge key to Netflix’s and other streamers’ success, providing what industry observes say is better customer value than TV or cable. “By owning the direct relationship between customer and content, Netflix and other subscription-based streamers have a big advantage over TV, which is predicated on advertising,” Jordan says. “That’s something studios don’t have. Netflix is making movies as a studio and then using its role as a platform to promote those efforts. That isn’t fair, at least not for the Oscars.”

“Streaming had already put most of the media incumbents – Hollywood, TV and cable – into a state of chaos,” Jordan says. “The Oscars – a very big stage – amplified that.”

 

Published by

Martin Dew

editor

27 Comments

  1. When was the last time Hollywood made a foreign language film *and* it ended up with so many Oscar nominations? Oh, and was black and white AND CinemaScope? I’d say never – please prove me wrong. That such a movie would have been “made for TV” in 1975 is just laughable.

    My point is that Netflix and other streaming distributors are making some outstanding films, that Hollywood never did or would have. We should be celebrating rather than trying to fight it. The other Steven, Steven Sodderbergh just made for Netflix a superb new film: High Flying Bird. I’d urge Mr. Spielberg to treat Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO etc. as just another Hollywood movie studio, and take advantage of what is a new golden age of movies.

  2. The problem with streaming is that it's a bubble that's going to burst. There's no way that Netflix can sustain its current level of output. Right now, just about every tech company with money to burn is entering the streaming business, but the vast majority of them are going to fall by the wayside, and there's going to be a huge contraction of production in the next five to ten years. When the dust settles, we'll probably be left with weak legacy studios only interested in making safe bets and and three or four big streaming players making a fraction of what they do now.

  3. I see the same happening as well, I think some will fall by the Wayside. However, Netflix was in the Streaming business early on .. Wouldn't they have a better chance of survival with their Subscriber base?

  4. I have to point out that Jeffrey Katzenberg says that Spielberg told him that he isn’t pushing for a rule change and that his statements were misinterpreted.

    ““I talked to Steven about this yesterday. I asked him very specifically,” Katzenberg said during the panel. He said, ‘I absolutely did not say that.’ “

    Katzenberg said Friday that Spielberg didn’t say anything about Netflix. In fact, he said it was a journalist that took a story and misinterpreted his words.

    “What happened is a journalist was onto a story about this and had heard a rumor about Steven,” said Katzenberg. “They called a spokesperson to get a comment and honestly, just twisted it around.””

    https://deadline.com/2019/03/jeff-katzenberg-steven-spielberg-netflix-oscars-1202572339/

  5. Wayne_j

    I have to point out that Jeffrey Katzenberg says that Spielberg told him that he isn't pushing for a rule change and that his statements were misinterpreted.
    "“I talked to Steven about this yesterday. I asked him very specifically,” Katzenberg said during the panel. He said, ‘I absolutely did not say that.’ “
    Katzenberg said Friday that Spielberg didn’t say anything about Netflix. In fact, he said it was a journalist that took a story and misinterpreted his words.
    “What happened is a journalist was onto a story about this and had heard a rumor about Steven,” said Katzenberg. “They called a spokesperson to get a comment and honestly, just twisted it around.”"
    https://deadline.com/2019/03/jeff-katzenberg-steven-spielberg-netflix-oscars-1202572339/

    Oh really, Jeffrey? "In March 2018, Spielberg spoke out against Netflix films earning Oscar recognition. “Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie,” he told ITV News. “You certainly, if it’s a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar. I don’t believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.”

    https://variety.com/2019/scene/awar…ma-audio-society-awards-streamers-1203141954/

    It is easy to understand Spielberg's warm feelings for the cinema. There is a lot of nostalgia involved, but it is worth noting that cinema is a business model that has made him extremely wealthy and powerful. Hollywood has well-established, well-functioning business models. They are now under threat by streaming. Connection?

  6. titch

    Spielberg spoke out against Netflix films earning Oscar recognition. "I don’t believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.

    But that is the current rule for Academy consideration for an Oscar, is it not? If Netflix, etc., were not following the rules for qualifying, their films would be disqualified from consideration.

    If Spielberg thinks the rules are too lax, he needs to petition the Academy to change the eligibility rules, not simply exclude certain company because he feels they're primarily a TV provider and not a movie studio. As long as they're complying with the Oscar eligibility rules, I don't think he has any valid complaint.

  7. Cranston37

    The one thing that I think does need to be cleared up – why an HBO movie would be up for an Emmy but a Netflix movie would be up for an Oscar. That makes little sense.

    Was the HBO movie released in theaters in accordance with Oscar's eligibility requirements?

  8. Cranston37

    The one thing that I think does need to be cleared up – why an HBO movie would be up for an Emmy but a Netflix movie would be up for an Oscar. That makes little sense.

    HBO doesn't release their films theatrically. Netflix has given some of their movies a limited theatrical release, enough to qualify for Oscar consideration. If Roma hadn't been released to theatres and only played on the streaming service, it could qualify for Emmy consideration.

  9. I do not see what the big fuss is about – the oscars are for theatrical movies, so why should Netflix movies be in the running?

    One could say that the real hypocrites here are Netflix who pretend to be the new avantgarde with movies produced exclusively for their streaming platform but they also seek recognition by the old Hollywood system. Who says they can't have it all? 😉

  10. OliverK

    I do not see what the big fuss is about – the oscars are for theatrical movies, so why should Netflix movies be in the running?

    Because in accordance to academy rules they play movies they want to be nominated for at least a week in NY and LA. If a wide release was required the Foreign Language Film and Documentary feature categories would be in trouble.

  11. Wayne_j

    Because in accordance to academy rules they play movies they want to be nominated for at least a week in NY and LA. If a wide release was required the Foreign Language Film and Documentary feature categories would be in trouble.

    Yes I know that Netflix let Roma run for a little bit and they even produced some 70mm prints. But why not just take the stance that they do not need the recognition of an Oscar nomination?

    As for the academy they will have to make up their mind how to handle this new situation but in my opinion it is very easy for Netflix or HBO to have their productions screen in theaters as per the requirements of the academy. That begs the question why it is still a good idea to have that qualification at all? Might be better to change the rules so that every movie is eligible based on artistic merit or if this is not what they want they'll have to come up with different criteria.

  12. Malcolm R

    You're the one who mentioned an HBO movie. I thought you had an example.

    My post was meant to be taken as a question, not a statement. I don't know much about the issue and am trying to find out…

  13. titch

    Oh really, Jeffrey? "In March 2018, Spielberg spoke out against Netflix films earning Oscar recognition. “Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie,” he told ITV News. “You certainly, if it’s a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar. I don’t believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.”

    https://variety.com/2019/scene/awar…ma-audio-society-awards-streamers-1203141954/

    Really ;). Jeffrey is correct. Spielberg does not mention NETFLIX at all in the link you provided.

  14. Tino

    Really ;). Jeffrey is correct. Spielberg does not mention NETFLIX at all in the link you provided.

    I think he's actually correct. There are 2 links in the post you quoted, and the first one includes the video interview with him from March 2018 where he brings up Netflix.

  15. Cranston37

    I think he's actually correct. There are 2 links in the post you quoted, and the first one includes the video interview with him from March 2018 where he brings up Netflix.

    Well then I stand corrected. But I think we know that Netflix isn’t really the target of his frustration. And I agree with his position.

    ……..I think. 😉

  16. OliverK

    I do not see what the big fuss is about – the oscars are for theatrical movies, so why should Netflix movies be in the running?

    One could say that the real hypocrites here are Netflix who pretend to be the new avantgarde with movies produced exclusively for their streaming platform but they also seek recognition by the old Hollywood system. Who says they can't have it all? 😉

    Keep in mind that one of the top streaming services is Amazon Prime, and unlike Netflix, they actually realease all of their movies theatrically first, and don’t start streaming them until some weeks or months later.
    So do you think that Amazon Prime should be bared from the Oscars because they are a streaming service? Or only Netflix should, but not Amazon?

    I think the main problem isn’t streaming services going for the Oscars, it is the older movie studios missing out the streaming train. Clearly Disney saw this was a problem, and is launching its own streaming servise. That leaves just 3(?) majors in the no streaming service bucket.

  17. Malcolm R

    You're the one who mentioned an HBO movie. I thought you had an example.

    In fact, HBO does release some of its movies at the Film Society of Lincoln Centern (which among other things hosts the New York Film Festival).
    I saw a few at the Walter Reade cinema before they appeared streaming including https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4015500/
    and
    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6244196/

    HBOs problem is that instead of going the Amazon Prime fully theatrical route, they got sold to AT&T which may ruin their in house, high quality filmmaking.

  18. Ted Todorov

    Keep in mind that one of the top streaming services is Amazon Prime, and unlike Netflix, they actually realease all of their movies theatrically first, and don’t start streaming them until some weeks or months later.
    So do you think that Amazon Prime should be bared from the Oscars because they are a streaming service? Or only Netflix should, but not Amazon?

    I did not know that about Amazon movies, do they get "real" releases in a number of theaters across the country?

    The Oscars used to be for movies that are screened theatrically but if they keep the qualification of theatrial screenings it should be more than two cinemas in L.A. and New york for a week or two, that is silly and imo does not make sense anymore. As for myself I would love for every Oscar nominee to at least be available on Blu-ray, probably not happening with Amazon and Netflix movies and some smaller foreign titles or shorts.

    Ted Todorov

    I think the main problem isn’t streaming services going for the Oscars, it is the older movie studios missing out the streaming train. Clearly Disney saw this was a problem, and is launching its own streaming servise. That leaves just 3(?) majors in the no streaming service bucket.

    That is a whole different discussion for another thread 🙂

  19. The Oscars have been bogged down with politics for years. It might be fun for a new group to start an awards show that celebrates all film creation in a given year no matter what the platform is.

  20. Atari

    The Oscars have been bogged down with politics for years. It might be fun for a new group to start an awards show that celebrates all film creation in a given year no matter what the platform is.

    That would be an idea but with the qualification that people should be able to watch it without jumping through too many hoops.

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