Academy warned over Netflix Oscars bid: play fair, or it’s an antitrust issue
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Academy warned over Netflix Oscars bid: play fair, or it’s an antitrust issue

At the most recent Academy Awards (or, as they’re commonly known, the Oscars), streaming video on demand (SVOD) market leader Netflix came closer than ever to winning the coveted “best picture” award. It’s Spanish language family drama Roma had long been touted as a potential candidate and came within a whisker of the win. That put a few noses out of joint (most publicly, renowned director Steven Spielberg). Now, as Mr. Spielberg pushes for new rules that would make it harder for streaming platforms to compete, the U.S. Justice Department has decided to get involved!

Netflix’s share price has appreciated by 44% so far year to date

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Source: Yahoo Finance

To get Roma considered for the award, Netflix gave it a very brief theatrical release (one of the conditions of entry). But the new rules Spielberg is requesting would require that a movie screen in theatres “for a few weeks” before appearing elsewhere. This is obviously not going to work for Netflix.

In addition to shoring up a business model the company profoundly disagrees with, there are two major problems: first, Netflix can hardly claim its content is exclusive to the platform if it appears elsewhere first… exclusive content is THE driving force for many subscribers, so if it’s easy to get that elsewhere, they might just do it. Second, it undercuts the democratisation of media that Netflix is built around: the company’s subscribers should get to see the content their subscriptions pay for first.

Netflix is particularly vocal about these considerations, but Spielberg’s proposed laws would probably rule Amazon and other streaming services out of consideration too – they might have the ability to do it, but no SVOD platform wants to do it.

According to a person close to the matter, now Makan Delrahim, the Justice Department’s head of antitrust division, has now written to Academy CEO Dawn Hudson expressing “concern about the way new award rules might be written.” His concern is simple: legislating Netflix (and other streaming platforms) out of the running would be anti-competitive.

In a statement, an Academy spokesperson said: “We’ve received a letter from the Dept. of Justice and have responded accordingly. The Academy’s Board of Governors will meet on April 23 for its annual awards rules meeting, where all branches submit possible updates for consideration.”


Dominion holds Netflix and Amazon in its Global Trends Ecommerce Fund.

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