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Netflix - good or bad for the film industry, discuss?

As the US Justice Department warns Academy over proposed Oscar rule changes Threatening Netflix and other streaming services for the Oscars could raise antitrust concerns and violate competition law.

Spielberg’s concerns over the eligibility of movies on streaming platforms have triggered intense debate in the industry. Netflix responded on Twitter early last month with the statement, “We love cinema. Here are some things we also love. Access for people who can’t always afford, or live in towns without, theaters. Letting everyone, everywhere enjoy releases at the same time. Giving filmmakers more ways to share art. These things are not mutually exclusive.”

Passionate debate for or against invited please?

  • I think a film is a film, if it's not a TV show (i.e. episodic). Makes no difference if it screened in cinemas or not. This is just Spielberg being a grumpy (and hypocritical) old git.

    I expanded on it here:

    I've not seen Roma, but Birdbox - despite not being great - caused a stir on social media and got a lot of buzz.
    But then Velvet Buzzsaw was terrible, and you've gotta wonder how it even got made with a screenplay that started well, and then it's like the intern wrote the rest while they were filming!


    2 years ago
  • "Access for people who can’t always afford, or live in towns without, theaters. Letting everyone, everywhere enjoy releases at the same time. "...on a subscription basis, not a pay-per-view basis, so it's slightly disingenuous.

    I have no real opinion about whether the Oscars "should" welcome non-theatrical films, Oscars have been becoming less an less relevant recently, might be the shot in the arm they need...but on the other hand, it's their club, their rules. If streamers are that upset about not having a ceremony, they can start their own awards and exclude theatrical releases.

    2 years ago
  • Breaking out of and away from the current moguls cartel is what it's all about, unless one is already a benefitting member of it. Vested interests are another matter.

    Alternative marketing and distribution is key. It's a process that includes, but is not at all defined by Netflix and Amazon. YouTube is not yet it but suggests one notion for an alternative. The appetite of big business
    is always going to be a beast in sheep pen where civic governance is wretched, as it usually is. The traditional business models for financing and profiting from productions are going to increasingly be competing with production and business models that develop entirely new ideas for survival in the post mogul cartel age.

    Two of those things are about much more bang for ones budgetory buck that superb emerging technology is going to provide. The vulgar and disproportionate fees paid to big stars that have traditionally been deemed essential can consume the biggest part of budgets to an extent that is not any more profitable or necessary to success. Audiences love to discover new talent, if it's good, as much as or even more so than watching old favourites, if trailers and marketing PR is done well. The mogul cartel doesn't have a monopoly on creativity, but they're good at pretending that they do.

    So great films relying on smaller budgets, benefitting from more cost effective production methods, and talented creatives on either side of the camera happy to become ordinarily rich without need for accruing personal wealth that exceeds the economy of a small nation. A sort of 'Scandinavian model' for the film industry providing viable opportunities for more people. Creating a broader menu for audiences.

    Screw the Oscars and the shebang behind it, darlings.

    2 years ago
  • I think we need both. Netflix has helped me watch films that I never would have seen otherwise because the cinema is not always a viable option, but I'll never stop going to see things on the big screen.

    People still read books even when they have a TV or film alternative.

    Spielberg is both working with Apple (so hypocritical?) and not understanding the media consumption culture of generations below him, but I see what he's trying to do. Nolan and Tarantino are obsessed with keeping 70mm and yet that didn't stop me enjoying Dunkirk on my TV at home.

    Netflix is not the only online provider and I agree that it shouldn't dominate but SVOD and TVOD services are much more fun for me than forced adverts and bratty, chatty people ruining films!*

    *I am going to see Avengers Endgame at midnight on a wednesday.

    2 years ago
  • Just reported in Variety "Netflix in Talks to Buy Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre From American Cinematheque
    Netflix is in early talks to buy the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood from American Cinematheque in what would be its first theater acquisition". I was waiting for this to happen. The powers that be control huge cinema chains so that they control how wide a release is and change every independent through the nose for renting theatrical screening space from them to make "Oscar" quoters. The streamers clearly are making enough money to buy into, and therefore have a say, cinema screens. I suspect they will buy them also in France where this year NetFlix films have been excluded. If they manage to buy enough of them or build them, the exclusion will become impossible.
    Regards Ray Brady

    2 years ago
    • Just a minor point - Netflix isn't profitable, they are burning through investor cash like crazy. They're trying to monopolise much as Amazon did with online shopping - burn investor cash as fast as possible then ask for more. It may work, or they may yet flame out if they don't become profitable in time. Amazon took over a decade of investment burn, and are widely divested into content, books, online shopping, B2B services, etc.

      Big question is if they manage to "monetise" their original content before it goes stale. Their model relies on long tail, but very few people want to watch stale content, and they're finding themselves selling to regular what price? They may be entering the arena of the big broadcasters and learning the same lessons fast. Just for context :)

      2 years ago
    • @Paddy Robinson-Griffin Netflix's position does look a bit iffy. Your comparison with Amazon is spot on. Amazon's long tail business model works because of its diversity. I referenced YouTube as viable model because it's free, and until now largely unregulated. It's still not a business platform that's quite right for most productions but I suspect something similar might be. The Internet porn industry is another business model where replacing the porn with more aspirational productions could work, even if it can't nearly match the trillion dollars worth of porn.

      People want to watch films at home for free on their 50 inch 4K TV's with HiFi surround sound at any time they feel like it. They still enjoy the occasion of going to the cinema but not as much as they used to. The golden age of the movie theater before TV has long gone. It's expensive and often a pallaver. Especially now that the 'at home' experience can be so good.

      Whoever solves the structure the can provide free, or extremely cheap viewing, at home and with high quality, by alternative revenue streams will be the next moguls.

      The nature of those alternative revenue streams is of course of the essence. No doubt innovative forms of advertising, campaigning and crowd funding will be a part of it, but not entirely as we now know it.

      Ten years ago I thought it'd have happened by now. It's being held back but it's a dam waiting to burst

      2 years ago
    • @John Lubran Indeed. Although I knew an adult studio owner, made a lot of cash in the 80's and 90's but "the bottom fell out" (ewww!) with the internet democratisation. He ended up closing the studio brand and selling the physical studios building for housing :-/

      2 years ago
    • @Paddy Robinson-Griffin The days
      of VHS video sales were short and sweet for some, no pun intended. Like every other business the porn industry has had to adapt since the advent of the Internet. It's still bigger than Hollywood though! Some elements of that business model might be adapted for more aspirational productions.

      2 years ago
    • @John Lubran
      Ref: "Some elements of that business model might be adapted for more aspirational productions." Would love to know what you had picked up on John, either in this post or by DM if confidential and not wished to be shared publically.

      Re "bigger than Hollywood", not sure about that anymore. Now that the Mouse House has corporately purchased so much in recent years, as far as I can tell, it now controls more than sixty percent of Hollywood's output, along with their TV channels and web content they are now the biggest media company ever to have existed.
      Regards Ray

      2 years ago
    • @Ray Brady. Sorry for the tardy response Ray, I've been distracted. Sadly I don't yet have the definitive plan for adapting the porn business model, but I do have an outline sketch. I'm not sure that anyone knows the exact value of the porn industry because it's so diversified. It's interesting to note that the range of estimates by analysts and informed guessers ranges between six and one hundred billion dollars per year. Additionally few observers know for sure how they make money from what's mostly free to view.

      We can however extrapolate quite a bit from the fact that they get hundreds of millions of viewers hitting their websites. Some estimates suggest that porn sites achieve over a billion hits per year. Just the sheer volume of views means that more than one form of advertising and/or campaigning can profitably benefit. YouTube's model is similar. It's about numbers and percentages. Film producers can make serious enough money from not only achieving just a fraction of the numbers and revenues generated by those giants, but also by attracting higher value marketing conversions from those more narrowly focused audiences that advertisers want. It's how most of the world's TV channels have operated over the last sixty years. The difference between porn and YouTube is that YouTube attracts viewers through the long tail whereas porn, although catering to different tastes, is essentially catering to much narrower interests. Film makers viewers are more like YouTube's audiences, being an eclectic bunch. So it seems to me that by catering to a more focused audience on the long tail spectrum, by producing films that can satisfy an identifiable interest, through websites that can attract as few as one million visitors or perhaps even just half that, even relatively low budget productions can begin to punch above their weight, in both commercial, sociopolitical and geosocial terms. The greater empowerment of crowdfunding would also be a product of such platforms.

      Success with such a strategy will require producers to identify the aspirational needs of their core audiences, which quite frankly need not be too challenging; and then to adapt their productions, whether factual, fiction or hybrid, to that end. Any success beyond that core audience would be a bonus, potentially a big bonus; nothing succeeds like success

      Whilst establishing such an enterprise cannot be done on shoestring, it's becoming increasingly within the reach of much less capitalised entities then that which has been the business models of any of the current moguls. I wish I was twenty years you younger.

      2 years ago
    • @John Lubran
      Good morning John,
      Fascinating information. I agree that creating a business model that enables filmmakers to make tiny amounts of revenue from their films which are given away freely (as no one wants to pay for anything on the net unless they're buying from Amazon) is the new Holy Grail of indie filmmaking. High volume, micro margins. Exciting stuff indeed!
      Many thanks for your reply
      Kind regards
      Ray Brady

      2 years ago
    • @Paddy Robinson-Griffin
      To confirm Paddy's statement this is the latest from Variety "Netflix continues to burn cash. Free cash flow for Q1 was -$460 million (compared with -$287 million in the year-ago quarter). The company said it now expects its free cash flow deficit for the full-year 2019 deficit to be “modestly higher” than it previously guided, to -$3.5 billion “due to higher cash taxes related to the change in our corporate structure and additional investments in real estate and other infrastructure.” It had previously told investors it was expecting negative free cash flow of $3.0 billion for 2019; Netflix says it still expects free cash flow to improve starting in 2020." Regards Ray

      2 years ago
  • I think its great for cinema as a whole but the impact from it will not be felt for some time. Netflix is offering more new, original content (which albeit is sometimes pretty bad) whereas traditional cinema is still milking massive blockbusters like there is no tomorrow. I really hope that there is soon a Marvel fatigue and the big production houses start to look at how Netflix has begun to dominate and make new content of their own.

    In short, the film industry needs a bit of a kick up the arse and hopefully Netlix will be the thing to do it.

    2 years ago
  • Netflix has a quality issue, but also a huge revenue stream. I think we'll see them move away from throwing stuff at the wall and starting to analyze what sticks.

    (Which they are doing, but I'm not sure we're seeing the results yet. Or if we are, execs are not trusting the writers enough, yet).

    If I ran NF my holy grail would be "what old content do people find by exploring, and then get sucked into? We want to make more of that".

    I suspect that if NF makes a classic, it's worth more to NF than in the hands of any other channel.

    If I ran NF I'd also be commissioning more British comedies because they are relatively cheap, and, see previous para :-)

    2 years ago
  • Hi Marlom, you're completely right. Whilst action/drama films many films get more than one or three viewings. It's most definitely comedies that take the prize for repeat viewings i.e. how many times have people viewed every one of the Python movies, Rocky Horror, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. Whilst TV shows, personally, episodes of Monty Pythons, whilst the kids (in my household at least) seem to have Friends or Malcolm in the Middle on endless replay. Raygards

    2 years ago
    • My eldest son discovered Monty Python on YT at age 11.

      "Dad, what do modern comedians do? Monty Python have done all the jokes" :-)

      2 years ago
    • @Marlom Tander
      Until Brexit that is, when the United Kingdom (er...we might have to come up with a better name) saved the world's comedians as we were acknowledged nationally as the biggest laughing stock internationally, something thankfully that we can all agree on.

      Ironically, if you listen very carefully you can hear the word "brexit" being spoken approx half way through the Monty Python's Killer Joke sketch, as our soldiers advance upon the German front!
      Regards Ray
      PS Sorry I had intended to post this eleven days ago but didn't find the time.

      2 years ago
    • Hi Ray, re: comedy trumping action drama - in regards to repeat viewings, I've just noticed in this week's Radio Times, that they've compiled a Top 20 of Sitcoms. Looking through the list, I'd say half of them are still on air (albeit Freeview) with Dad's Army on BBC2

      2 years ago
  • UPDATE: Source Variety.
    "Fresh off the record-obliterating opening weekend of “Avengers: Endgame,” directors Joe and Anthony Russo waded into the ongoing debate about the arms race over streaming platforms.

    Discussing the similarities between the tentpole film business and the huge-spending streaming content marketplace, Joe Russo spoke plainly about who is leading the charge for the latter.

    “The closest race to watch is Disney versus Netflix,” Joe Russo told moderator and CNBC anchor Julia Boorstin.

    “Netflix is at volume, and they have to get their volume to quality. Disney is at quality, and they’ve got to get volume. We’ll see who gets there first, because that will set market dominance,” he continued.

    While Amazon Studios and Apple are serious competitors — and Warner Media and NBCUniversal are in the kitchen developing their own portals — the battle royale comes down to Netflix versus Disney+, said Joe Russo. The co-directing brothers both appeared for a keynote conversation at the 2019 Milken Global Conference in Los Angeles on Monday."
    More n Variety

    2 years ago