Back when Apple made the announcement they were getting into the content business to make movies, episodic TV and more, the market wasn’t particularly surprised, I’d been waiting since 2000 for this news, and I thought it came a little late.
Apple’s $1-2 billion spend on content this year is expected to reach $4 billion over the next few years, and they’re doing deals with big names & brands, (Oprah, Sesame Street, Kevin Durant, Reese Witherspoon, Lance Eskridge of Ozarks) big executives and paying talent ask prices, making them the favored go-to platform. For now.
And of course, in the end – Apple can promote like nobody’s business, use their own infrastructure of iPhones and iTunes to push their content over and above anyone else’s content.
The rush to more content is on, with AT&T now owning HBO, they’re poised to spend on content,”I fully expect we’re going to be investing heavier in content development at HBO,” John Stankey, the incoming head of AT&T’s entertainment division, said in an interview with Bloomberg.
HBO has an over-the-top streaming service and 5 million subscribers nationally, and over 88 million households internationally, but most of those households aren’t paying a premium for HBO like they do for Netflix, HBO is part of a bundle. Can HBO outspend and compete with Netflix?
Netflix added nearly 24 million subscribers in 2017 and they’re planning to spend about $8 billion on content this year. And it’s spending even more on a cash basis, as it produces more content in-house instead of licensing. However – what are the aftermarkets for Netflix? None, really. What cable network or broadcasting channel will show Netflix content, when it will exist in perpetuity on Netflix? It seems unlikely. so their sole revenue stream is all in-house, requiring more and more subscribers globally.
The battle of production pocketbooks versus the capacity of viewers eyeballs and their appetite for content (quality another issue) is being played out and we’ll see who wins!
Cannes versus Netflix
Netflix declares that it doesn’t need movie theaters or Cannes – which has championed the cinema experience for ever. Many of us saw this coming, particularly last year.
TechRadar puts it well: Cannes and Netflix have parted ways, with CEO Ted Sarandos revealing that a change to the film festival’s rules means that none of its movies will be competing this year.
When in 2017, the film festival premiered two Netflix Originals, Bong Joon-ho’s excellent Okja and Noah Baumbach’s stunning The Meyerowitz Stories, there were protests and booing.
Not at the content of the movies, but at what they represent – a new age of moviemaking that bypasses the big screen, where movies with big budgets and bigger stars don’t get a grand theatrical opening but slip on to a streaming service.
Many Hollywood icons openly trash Netflix – such as Helen Mirren – calling it devastating for movie directors, (and Spielberg, Nolan) but there are few options right now. Netflix (and Amazon) are one of the most vital, growing aspects in movie distribution right now. Yes everyone says they want cinemas and theaters, but who is going to support them? Aside from a handful of comic book movies, if people don’t go to the theaters, then do people really want them… Yet bigger numbers continue to support Netflix.
While HMNY and Moviepass – offering subscription service to theaters, notably the most ground breaking champion of movie theaters today, is trashed by AMC, even when Moviepass services are responsible for selling “hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of tickets” for AMC over March and April of this year.
What Now for the Future of Movie Viewing?
The future is clearly streaming, and theaters will eventually die. As A.O. Scott said from the New York Times, “Every distributor of content, including movie studios and this newspaper, seeks to monetize a share of human attention. The tech giants, whose ranks Netflix aspires to join, want something more like a monopoly, to be the conduit for as much of our experience as they can.”
It’s not that Netflix is doing anything wrong, they’re just doing it better. For right now.
Perhaps Netflix is too progressive? Or maybe Cannes, with its love of history, need to ban selfies on the red carpet and obsession for tradition, is too stuck in the past.
@paulalandry, @AFlickChick, @TheBusinessofFilm
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