Signaling that it’s still in the business of licensing content from the major studios, Netflix on Thursday announced a deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment to acquire exclusive first pay window rights to Sony theatrical titles starting with the studio’s 2022 slate.
The deal, which was for an undisclosed sum, also gives Netflix first dibs on any movies Sony chooses to distribute directly for the streaming market.
If anyone was looking for a clear indicator that a "Sony+" won’t be launched anytime soon, this is probably it.
Netflix outbid Lionsgate premium programmer Starz, which still gets Sony titles after theatrical and home entertainment windows through the end of 2021.
Notable 2022 Sony releases include Morbius, which stars Jared Leto as a biochemist who turns himself into a vampire following a flawed attempt to cure himself from a rare blood disease; Uncharted, a video game title adaptation, directed by Ruben Fleischer, and starring Mark Wahlberg and Antonio Banderas; an adaptation of Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing; and the action film Bullet Train.
Perhaps even more notable for Netflix is the fact that the Sony deal puts it back into the Marvel business, following Disney’s decision several years ago to pull all its digital wares back into Disney Plus. Sony controls the theatrical fates of Marvel characters including Spider-Man and Venom. In fact, Morbius is a Marvel co-production, too. The Marvel Cinematic Universe remains the top driver of box office business, according to Box Office Mojo.
For 2019, the last “normal” box office year before the ongoing pandemic, Sony Pictures controlled about 11.7% of the U.S. box office, ranking behind the dominant Disney, Warner Bros. and Universal.
“Sony Pictures is a great partner, and we are thrilled to expand our relationship through this forward-thinking agreement,” said Scott Stuber, head of global films for Netflix, in a statement. “This not only allows us to bring their impressive slate of beloved film franchises and new IP to Netflix in the U.S., but it also establishes a new source of first run films for Netflix movie lovers worldwide.”
Netflix famously grew its market capitalization on the backs of shortsighted media companies, then smartly pivoted into an aggressive investment into original content, rightly sensing that major studios including Disney, Warner Bros. and Universal would eventually launch their own direct-to-consumer streaming services and withhold their content for those purposes.
Now that Disney Plus, HBO Max and Peacock have arrived, and the major conglomerates have largely silo’d off their movies for their own respective services, Netflix has an advantage as the only major service to offer a diversified content portfolio.
“Netflix has been a terrific partner as we continue to expand our relationship,” added Keith LeGoy, president of worldwide distribution and networks for Sony Pictures Entertainment. “At Sony Pictures, we produce some of the biggest blockbusters and the most creative, original films in the industry. This exciting agreement further demonstrates the importance of that content to our distribution partners as they grow their audiences and deliver the very best in entertainment.”
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