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How Much Does The Netflix-Sony Deal Affect The “Streaming Wars?”

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It feels like every few days now that, yet another streaming service is announced; HBO Max, Disney Plus, Paramount Plus, Peacock, the list goes on. So, it was very refreshing to see the news broke recently that streaming giant Netflix had made a deal with film studio, Sony to distribute all Sony films exclusively on Netflix after their initial theatrical run as of 2022. This is undeniably a huge deal, but how much does it affect the streaming wars?

Well first, this is a huge win for customers and fans of films and TV shows because we get more content on Netflix and we don’t have to pay for yet another streaming service. That is fairly simple and obvious, but how and why is this a win for Netflix? Well, often people’s biggest concern or complaint about Netflix is its lack of interesting intellectual property (IP), and that eventually, all film studios would leave Netflix to make their own streaming service and it would have to rely exclusively on original content. That started to become a reality; at one point, Netflix bought the streaming rights to many Disney films, Warner Bros films, Paramount films, etc. and when these studios saw the success of Netflix, they took their IPs back and made their own streaming services. And when competing with streaming services like HBO Max, which has the rights to DC Comics, Harry Potter, Mad Max, or streaming services like Disney Plus which has the rights to Star Wars, Marvel, National Geographic, Netflix’sStranger Things’ couldn’t really compete with that. It really seemed like only a matter of time before Sony announced their new streaming service, but they didn’t. They cut a deal with Netflix and integrated into a pre-existing streaming service. This means that Netflix will have exclusive streaming rights to Spider-Man, Ghostbusters, Jumanji, and after he left Miramax after the Weinstein scandal, Quentin Tarantino’s future films will be Sony properties too. This won’t just be an initial boost of subscribers, but the consistent influx of brand-new Sony films, like the much-anticipated sequel to the Oscar winning animated film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, or Venom 2: Let There Be Carnage, going to Netflix will retain subscribers too. Obviously then, this is a huge win for Netflix but why is it so good for Sony?

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2 teaser poster.


Well in my opinion, Sony integrating into an established streaming service is the best move they could’ve made. It’ll save them money on creating a streaming service, advertising their own streaming service, making original content for that streaming service. Instead, they can slip into Netflix’s catalogue easily and cheaply. Also, Netflix isn’t just another streaming service. Netflix is the original streaming service. If it weren’t for Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max wouldn’t exist. Netflix is the biggest streaming service in the world, clocking in at a whopping 203 million subscribers, over double Disney Plus’ total and considering that Disney is one of the biggest media conglomerates in the world it having half of Netflix’s subscribers goes to show how successful and powerful Netflix is. So, Sony going to them is a huge benefit for Sony; Netflix is already available world-wide, compared to Warner Bros’ HBO Max which is only available in the US for now, Netflix has an established brand, most people are already subscribed to Netflix so, as I said, Sony really can slip in quietly without doing the leg work of creating a new streaming service.

How does this impact the wider streaming wars? Well, Sony have just given Netflix a massive boost and this is a huge deal. As I said earlier, Netflix’s main concern was a lack of IP, well now they have a major film studio in their pocket that can compete with the likes of Warner Bros or Paramount, as well as brand new films every month or even more often from Sony. Netflix is basically now operating as if two major studios were making original content for it, as opposed to just one. Regardless of this Sony deal, though, Netflix has something you can’t buy or manufacture or cut a deal for, which will always give it the lead in the streaming wars: its reputation. Netflix is so influential that its name has become a verb; Netflix and Chill, and that’s when you know you’ve made it (look at Google compared to Bing, Bing might be better in every way, but no-one is ever saying “hold on, let me Bing it”). Netflix hasn’t quite hit eponym status (when a brand name virtually replaces the name of the actual item, like Jacuzzi or Band-Aid), but it’s slowly getting closer and closer. It’s definitely synonymous with streaming; in 2017 there was a survey in the US in which people were asked to name their favourite Netflix shows, many people named shows that aren’t from Netflix, they were just using Netflix as a synonym for streaming. But most importantly, Netflix is the incumbent king of streaming. And it’s very difficult, even for a legendary company like Disney, to defeat the incumbent. Netflix has become a staple must-have thing in people’s homes, it replaced traditional TV for many people; people won’t unsubscribe from Netflix just because Disney have a new streaming service; they’ll just pay for both. Netflix has also had a huge head start, they’ve been doing this since 2007 they have had over a decade longer than other studios to perfect every detail about the content, the user-interface, the algorithm, which all takes years to do. 

My point is that even if Disney Plus, which is Netflix’s biggest competition, surpass Netflix in subscribers, in quality, they will never, can never, surpass Netflix’s reputation and impact simply due to the fact that Netflix did it first. Netflix has a monopoly, not on streaming itself, but on the way in which we perceive streaming. Everything from the fact that, as I said, Netflix is synonymous with streaming and has become a verb, to the way Netflix’s original shows and films have a short, quippy Netflix logo accompanied by the now famous ‘baduum’ which now every streaming service has some variation of. Which seems obvious, but it isn’t. No TV network or film-studio had a short intro like that for content before Netflix did. They, of course, have long logos (even Netflix has one of those that only plays in cinemas), but not a quick, one-note, two-second logo. Because of things like this, Netflix will always have a lead in the streaming wars, they pioneered streaming. Netflix also have made such an impact on the world of film and TV that they became the first streaming service to win a Golden Globe, an Emmy, and even an Oscar. They’ve worked with acclaimed actors; they even made a Scorsese film in 2019. They have firmly cemented themselves in this industry and they aren’t going anywhere. So, to actually get back to my point, the way this Sony deal with Netflix affects the streaming wars is by adding to Netflix’s longevity, certifying that it won’t be threatened by major studios starting their own services. Netflix have been consistently signing deals with popular directors, actors, writers. They’ve worked with Martin Scorsese, Guillermo Del Toro, the Coen Brothers, Alfonso Cuarón, but this is the first deal they’ve signed, not just with a person who agrees to do three films, but an entire studio for exclusive rights to everything they make.

Director, Alfonso Cuarón after winning three Oscars for his Netflix film, Roma

The streaming wars, though, aren’t what most people envision when you say ‘war’. There won’t be a winner of this war. It will go on forever, companies like Apple or Amazon aren’t fighting to become the next Netflix, they just see how lucrative the industry is and want a slither of the pie. There will be services at the top and services at the bottom but to say that there will be a single winner is just wrong. I remember Disney Plus was prophesized to be the death of Netflix, but it barely left a dent, and a year after Disney Plus’ launch, Netflix was operating as if nothing happened, and Disney Plus is operating and growing too. Disney hasn’t taken any of Netflix’s pie, they’ve just baked their own. In the world of filmmaking and distribution, Disney may be the top of the food chain, but streaming is Netflix’s house and Netflix has had its foot firmly in the door far too long to be thrown out regardless, but this new deal with Sony extends its lead and industry dominance even further.

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