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Video-streaming services chase Hollywood dreams at the Oscars

This year, Netflix actually has a pretty good shot at the prize that has so long eluded the tech industry

Eric Newcomer | Bloomberg 


The are purportedly about honouring the best movies of the year, but they also serve as a proxy war between old-guard studios and next-generation streaming services. So if you want to root for the home team this year, you can cheer for your favourite studio to block from taking the first-ever best picture statue for a streaming service.

This year, actually has a pretty good shot at the prize that has so long eluded the tech industry. The company reportedly spent $25 million-plus to win Academy votes for its racehorse—the black-and-white, Alfonso Cuarón masterpiece, And it hired Oscar strategist Lisa Taback, the woman behind the campaigns for The King’s Speech, The Artist and Spotlight, to help shepherd to victory.

According to Reporter’s number-crunching, is now to win the nod. Though BlackKkKlansman, and The Favourite—produced by traditional studios—also all seem to have a fighting chance.

Traditional Hollywood is already up in arms over the possibility of a streaming upset. After Roma picked up four awards at Britain’s Baftas, including best film, a movie theatre chain called Vue went ballistic, calling Roma “made-for-TV”. Meanwhile one anonymous Oscar voter described it as an “expensive home movie”.

The chief complaint for theatres is that screened Roma for only a few weeks before also putting it online. Movie theatres push for long exclusive periods before movies appear on streaming services. Some in the movie industry support the exclusivity on artistic grounds, favour it for more overtly business-related motives. For obvious reasons, Netflix disagrees.

But this year, the annual “will they or won’t they” game takes place against the backdrop of a much fiercer and more consequential struggle between existing entertainment titans and the tech set. Media companies including giants like AT&T and CBS increasingly realise that that the threat from Netflix and its ilk isn’t going away, and to compete, they’ll need to become streaming companies themselves, and quickly.

Take, Walt Disney Co. The company is in the midst of building out its planned Disney+ streaming service while taking ownership over Hulu (a service that also got its first Oscar nomination this year). In its push toward online content, Disney faces the ultimate business question: to what extent should it eat into its current revenue sources to lure viewers to its new services? Increasingly signs are pointing toward Disney sacrificing short-term licensing revenue. Netflix killed its shows from Disney-owned Marvel, marking an important split between the companies. And on Thursday, The Information reported that Disney might pull content from its global television channels to feed its two streaming services, cutting into its licensing revenue.

The company’s bet might be a sage investment in the future. But it’s worth remembering that the entertainment world is famously fickle.

This awards season, spare a thought for one disrupter that you’re hearing very little about these days: MoviePass. Its parent company’s shares traded below a dollar for months. This month, its stock was finally de-listed from Nasdaq.

The IPO drumbeat continues. Pinterest has filed confidentially for a public offering. Private markets have valued the company at about $12 billion.

First Published: Sat, February 23 2019. 02:15 IST