After making the local video rental shop a thing of the past,
) is about to obviate cinemas as well.
First, Netflix was just a mail-order DVD rental company which
pivoted toward streaming. It essentially did for TV and film what
) iTunes did for music: help the industry adjust to a brave new
world where endless copying and piracy is possible. As with iTunes,
Netflix streaming is not as lucrative for movie studios as the more
traditional distribution channels, but viewers are willing to pay a
small price to legally consume media. Netflix actually
checks piracy sites
to see what consumers want but can't legally get when it decides
which shows to buy.
Some content creators such as
) refuse to allow streaming, which is less profitable than
syndication, and some films disappear from the streaming service
when licensing deals with Netflix expire. So Netflix started
producing its own award-winning shows, such as
House of Cards
Orange Is the New Black.
It has also talked about producing its own feature films,
documentaries, and stand-up comedy shows.
The next logical step is releasing its own big feature films in
on Netflix on the same day. This is what Ted Sarandos, Netflix's
head of content, said in a speech for Film Independent (via Peter
"What we're trying to do for TV, the model should extend pretty
nicely to movies,"
. "Meaning, why not premiere movies on Netflix, the same day
they're opening in theaters? And not little movies - there's a lot
of ways, and lot of people to do that [already]. Why not big
movies? Why not follow the consumers' desire to watch things when
If this works out, it would put tremendous pressure on Hollywood's
business model. Traditionally, the studio "windows" releases: a
movie goes to the theaters first, and then goes to video and
streaming later. Putting a movie to DVD quickly is an admission of
failure in the business. But Netflix sees this model as taking
options away from viewers. Whether you go to a theater or you stay
at home to watch a movie should be your choice, the company says.
Sarandos also pointed out that some independent movies already go
to other distribution channels, such as iTunes, at the same time as
the theater release.
Even if Netflix starts producing films for the big screen,
Hollywood will be slow to change. Conventional theaters rely on the
big blockbusters to keep the lights on. Big theater chains like
Regal Entertainment Group
) operate hundreds of cinemas in the US, and they are very
influential when it comes to marketing and hype. It's hard to
imagine them living in a world where they don't have at least a
small window of exclusivity in which to sell overpriced popcorn.
For more on the incredible disruption that Netflix has already
fostered in the entertainment industry, this five-minute speech by
Kevin Spacey is a must-watch.