Netflix has just fired a pretty big shot in the ongoing war to control all content. Recently we’ve seen them and their streaming competitors—chiefly Amazon’s Prime service—waging a fierce battle to round up streaming rights to all of the studio content that they can their hands on. The competition has gotten so fierce, in fact, that both companies have started producing their own exclusive content as a way to offset the bad feelings sent their way by upset customers who don’t understand what happens when an entire studio’s offerings suddenly drop off of a service in order to go exclusive with someone else.
Anyway, the new news, which comes from an announcement by Netflix, is that they’ve signed a new agreement with The Weinstein Company to have exclusive pay television rights to all of their content starting in 2016. This extends a deal that the two companies made to give Netflix exclusive access to a limited list of Weinstein content back in February of 2012, and is very similar to an exclusive deal Netflix signed with Disney in December 2012, which will see the streaming service also becoming the exclusive home of Disney content starting in 2016.
What’s the extent of the content the new Weinstein and Netflix deal covers? Pretty much everything that TWC, as well as their genre label, Dimension Films, puts out. In order to bring the scope of that into focus, Netflix boasts in their announcement that, “Since 2005, TWC and Dimension Films have released such films as GRINDHOUSE; 1408; I’M NOT THERE; THE GREAT DEBATERS; VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA; THE READER; THE ROAD; HALLOWEEN; THE PAT TILLMAN STORY; PIRANHA 3D; INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS; A SINGLE MAN; BLUE VALENTINE; THE COMPANY MEN; MIRAL; SCRE4M; SUBMARINE; DIRTY GIRL; APOLLO 18; OUR IDIOT BROTHER; I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT; SARAH’S KEY; SPY KIDS: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD IN 4D; MY WEEK WITH MARILYN; THE IRON LADY; W.E.; CORIOLANUS; UNDEFEATED; THE ARTIST; BULLY; THE INTOUCHABLES; LAWLESS; KILLING THEM SOFTLY; THE MASTER; SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK; DJANGO UNCHAINED; QUARTET; ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH; DARK SKIES; THE SAPPHIRES; SCARY MOVIE 5; and KON-TIKI. Currently in release are UNFINISHED SONG, FRUITVALE STATION and THE BUTLER. Upcoming releases include THE GRANDMASTER, SALINGER and MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM.”
That’s a lot of movies. But why Netflix? What made Harvey and Bob go with them instead of one of their competitors, or kept them from starting a streaming service of their own? Harvey boasted of the new deal, “The deal that we’ve just completed with Netflix is probably the biggest deal in the history of The Weinstein Company, and together we are discussing ways to reinvent the pay TV experience so that the audience can get even more for their money.” He continued, “Their enthusiasm for movies of all kinds was the big factor in our choosing Netflix. Moving forward, when people see The Weinstein Company name on a movie, they know that our pay TV partner is the most significant new force in the entertainment industry – Netflix.”
Reinvent the pay TV experience? That sounds like a lot of empty bluster. But what’s clear is that Amazon Prime, HBO Go, that new Redbox streaming service, and whoever else is trying to get a piece of the streaming pie are going to have to find big ways to counter once all of TWC and Disney’s content starts being available only on Netflix in 2016. If one company manages to get the lion’s share of exclusive deals with all of the big studios, then the competitors are going to be dead in the water. And yet, on the other hand, split exclusive content rights between too many different services, and suddenly all of them might lose the content firepower necessary to be worth the money for subscribers. Would that be the streaming video equivalent of mutually assured destruction? What do you think the future of subscription services is going to look like now that these exclusive agreements are starting to be made?