Industry insiders appear to perceive Netflix films as lesser properties than those released to cinemas. Even Steven Spielberg recently threw his hat into the ring when he told ITV News that films released by Netflix shouldn’t be eligible for an Academy Award.
Fellow filmmaker Christopher Nolan agreed, telling IndieWire that he wouldn’t ever work with the streaming provider. Netflix was even banned from entering Cannes, prompting the company’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos to withdraw any of its films from the festival, including those that weren’t even eligible for an award.
Sarandos clearly wants Netflix films to be given the same treatment as other films, and he has a point. Actors who have appeared in original Netflix movies include Adam Sandler and Will Smith, and directors include the likes of Noah Baumbach and Martin Scorsese. Further, their movies legitimately compete with cinema releases, having received a number of Oscar nominations.
It may be in the interests of those who oppose the idea of Netflix winning awards to reconsider their misgivings. After all, even the snobbiest of film buffs would struggle to deny that Netflix is having a positive impact on cinema. Instead of opposing Netflix, the industry would perhaps be wise to take note of what the streaming service is doing right.
Certainly, for every success, such as Beasts of No Nation, the streaming provider releases 10 or so films that fail. Giving out-of-the-box stories or lesser known films a chance, however, has been a successful strategy for Netflix. It’s also one that’s helping to establish an audience for the next Spielberg and Nolan.
In taking note from the success of Netflix, the movie industry may wish to reconsider its pricing stricture. The average price of a cinema ticket in major U.S. cities, such as Los Angeles and New York, was $8.97 in 2017, with some prices far higher. A whole month of Netflix costs just $7.99-$13.99, in comparison.
Subscription–based models have worked for years. Whether for magazines, or more recently, prepared meals, the general public has proven that it is more than willing to commit to an ongoing investment, if they believe enough in the product or service.
Another part of Netflix’s successful strategy includes an affiliate program, where it pays a commission to those who refer others to subscribe. Information on the program no longer appears on the website, as they likely now accept specialist, high-traffic partners, exclusively. Amazon Associates is another example of a successful affiliate program, and the Mr Green affiliate program pays out €1.1m in monthly commission, with up to 45% revenue share. So, it’s clearly a winning strategy.
If you can’t beat them…
A subscription-model does, in fact, exist in the cinema industry, of course; an admission perhaps that Netflix is on to something. Cineworld has offered its Unlimited card for years, and Odeon has recently followed suit.
Ultimately, if cinemas wish to compete with Netflix, they need to reconsider what Netflix offers its subscriber base e.g. more affordability and more options, and figure out how it can apply those offerings to the cinema experience.