The film industry is restructuring to adapt to the new times. Times of Covid, of course, but also of streaming platforms: attendance at the rooms was losing strength compared to the consumption of content on demand at home, and the pandemic only streamlined the process, tilting the balance towards platforms such as HBO, Prime Video or Netflix.
Precisely, Netflix has just signed a very important agreement with Sony Pictures, with those who get exclusive rights, for five years, to broadcast all the films of the production company after their exhibition windows in cinemas and in domestic format. That will include blockbusters like Uncharted, Morbius, the sequel to Spider-Man A New Universe or future installments of Bad Boys or Jumanji. Even the movie of Ghost of tsushima, if it is released before 2026!
What does this agreement mean for the industry and for the consumer?
It is important to make several clarifications. First, this agreement only valid in the United States. The rights of showing films and series vary depending on the countries and regions. It is possible that some ramifications of this agreement will extend to other countries, but for now, Netflix Spain this is neither going nor coming … unless it is the new content that comes out of the agreement, as we will see later.
Second: this agreement will come into effect in 2022 (until 2026), so Sony movies planned for the remainder of 2021, such as Ghostbusters Beyond or Spider-Man No Way Home they are out of the agreement. Of course, the agreement will allow Netflix to license the rights of an undetermined number of films from the Sony and Columbia Pictures catalog, so it would add to its catalog not only with new releases, but also with films from previous years.
Think of Microsoft getting Bethesda: Until new games like The Elder Scrolls VI arrive, Xbox Game Pass will win many of the old titles from the Bethesda catalog.
Third, this agreement does not mean that Sony movies lose their theatrical release. Movies like Uncharted, slated for February 2022, will continue to have their traditional theatrical window, later on DVD and Blu Ray, and then on Netflix. On Netflix they will be during the call “first payment window”, usually 18 months, after which these films could go to other platforms.
It’s more, they have not said anything about a reduction of the period of exhibition in cinemas, as Paramount did, which reduced the theatrical window to 30-45 days for films such as Top Gun Maverick or A Quiet Place 2, after which they will go to Paramount +, formerly CBS All Access (again, this agreement will only be applies in the US, there is not even that platform here).
Bedroom, and perhaps the most interesting from a content point of view: Netflix has committed to financing a series of titles for Sony, which are probably movies or series directly for the platform. Sony clarifies that this agreement does not mean they reduce resources for theatrical productionInstead, Netflix will simply fund more projects with Sony.
Could they be spin-offs from Sony’s holdings, such as a Ghostbusters television series? It would be the most logical path to follow, although at the moment they have not investigated much more in that regard.
This move sounds like Sony’s response to its main competitors, Disney and Warner Bros. (Paramount too, as we have seen, although that is less “dangerous”). Both have adopted different positions regarding their premieres.
Warner has pledged to release all of its 2021 movies in theaters and HBO Max at once. Probably the incredible box office data for Godzilla vs. Kong have made them regret very early, and almost instantly confirmed that in 2022 they will return to the traditional exhibition model: first theaters, then HBO Max.
Disney, For his part, he decides film by film: Raya and the Last Dragon, Cruella and Black Widow will have simultaneous release in theaters and Disney + (extra payment) while Pixar’s, Soul and soon Luca, they have direct streaming premiere, at no additional cost (why treat Pixar films as a minor category? Even Pixar employees are demoralized …).
Sony makes Netflix its “own” streaming platform
Therefore, at the user level outside the United States, this agreement, in principle, will not have any repercussions, unless the agreements between both companies partially reach other regions. Neither for the theaters, since the exhibition window is kept as it was (as long as the virus allows you to continue going to the cinema, of course). For Netflix, it means greatly increasing its offer in the US market.
Maybe the one that earns the most is Sony, which practically “subcontracts” to Netflix to make it its own streaming platform with which to compete against those of Disney, Warner and Paramount, without having to develop their own “Sony +”, further filling a market that is very saturated with video on demand offers.