Netflix Courts Controversy at Cannes (NFLX, AMZN)

Frank
July 9, 2017
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Online video-streaming service Netflix, Inc. (NFLX) has made its Cannes Film Festival debut with controversy. The French Exhibitors Association and members of the grand jury have criticized the festival’s organizers for allowing Netflix’s films to be included in competition without a theatrical release. Critics of the service also pointed to the fact that Netflix closed its Paris office last year and does not pay corporate tax in France. This is the first time that films from Netflix have been at Cannes. Ted Sarandos, chief content officer at Netflix, said that the service might not return next year if its films were to be screened out of competition.

Meanwhile, Netflix is said to be in negotiations with distribution agencies in France for a limited theatrical release of both the films it is showing at Cannes. This will help the service get around French laws that prohibit a film with wide theatrical release from being exhibited on SVOD platforms for three years. Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN), the other streaming service player, made its debut at Cannes last year. Its entry this year has received mixed reviews from critics. (See also: Amazon and Netflix Bag Awards at the Oscars.)

The controversies and attention showered on video-streaming services have helped both players rack up digital engagement cred. According to reports, “Okja,” a Netflix South Korean sci-fi film about a girl who takes on the government for her pet, has garnered the highest digital engagement as measured on social platforms among all movie screenings. It is followed by “The Meyerowitz Stories,” another Netflix film, and “Wonderstruck,” an Amazon film. “Okja” is also reported to have received rave reviews from critics at Cannes. (See also: How Exactly Do Movies Make Money?)

Streaming services have also affected business in the Cannes ecosystem. According to reports, the asking price for movies has not become cheaper even though executives are not indulging in bidding wars for movies. This is due to the presence of Amazon and Netflix, which bid high prices for acclaimed content. Unlike traditional studios, which are dependent on ticket sales and distributorship deals for profits, both streaming services depend on subscriber numbers for their bottom line. Good content ensures repeat subscribers. Netflix is committed to spending $6 billion on producing and acquiring original content this year, while Amazon is reported to be spending $4.5 billion on original content in 2017. (See also: Is the Cinema Industry Set for a Clear Downfall?)

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