The Netflix Vs. Hollywood Battle Continues with Assistance from the Department of Justice
Will this ever cease?
The Netflix vs. Hollywood battle keeps raging on, but this time the Department of Justice has decided to step in as a coming meeting with the Academy board threatens Netflix’s eligibility to submit films for Oscar consideration.
In a letter obtained by Variety from the Department of Justice to the head of the AMPAS, the chief of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division Makan Delrahim writes of worries that new rules will be written “in a way that tends to suppress competition … In the event that the Academy — an association that includes multiple competitors in its membership — establishes certain eligibility requirements for the Oscars that eliminate competition without procompetitive justification, such conduct may raise antitrust concerns.”
Delrahim cites Section 1 of the Sherman Act and says, “Accordingly, agreements among competitors to exclude new competitors can violate the antitrust laws when their purpose or effect is to impede competition by goods or services that consumers purchase and enjoy but which threaten the profits of incumbent firms… if the Academy adopts a new rule to exclude certain types of films, such as films distributed via online streaming services, from eligibility for the Oscars, and that exclusion tends to diminish the excluded films’ sales, that rule could therefore violate Section 1.”
An Academy spokesperson replied, “We’ve received a letter from the Dept. of Justice and have responded accordingly. The Academy’s Board of Governors will meet on April 23 for its annual awards rules meeting, where all branches submit possible updates for consideration.”
This is coming on the heels of Steven Spielberg, who’ll soon be partnering with Apple for their streaming service, campaigning to have Netflix films removed from consideration if they are released on the streaming service while they’re in theaters. Spielberg also campaigned heavily for Green Book to win Best Picture over Netflix’s Roma, a sentiment which I feel speaks for itself.
Netflix responded to Spielberg and the backlash via Twitter.
We love cinema. Here are some things we also love:
-Access for people who can’t always afford, or live in towns without, theaters
-Letting everyone, everywhere enjoy releases at the same time
-Giving filmmakers more ways to share art
These things are not mutually exclusive.
— Netflix Film (@NetflixFilm) March 4, 2019
Netflix and streaming isn’t the death of cinema; high prices at the ticket stands definitely does more damage, or lack of access to all films being released. Netflix and streaming have become an accessibility issue in a way. People who can afford Netflix (or borrow someone’s password) but who might not have access to a theater showing everything from blockbusters to indie films can actually see different movies this way, rather than be excluded from the conversation.
The Sherman Act also clearly prohibits “anticompetitive agreements among competitors.” What is going on with the Academy might not be entirely legal. Also, it doesn’t make sense—a film is a film, regardless of theatrical windows. It’s time to grow and change with the times, not just stand against them in hopes of clinging to the past.
(via Variety, image: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
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