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Netflix and Weinstein Company: Closer Than ‘Arm’s Distance’

Netflix executives were asked in an interview Tuesday pegged to their company’s earnings report whether the streaming service would be interested in buying the embattled Weinstein Company.

CEO Reed Hastings all but rejected the idea. “It would be extremely unlikely for us to be a bidder for the firm,” he said. But chief content officer Ted Sarandos went a step further, minimizing any connection between Netflix and the Weinstein Company in the wake of the torrent of assault and harassment accusations against the latter’s co-founder, Harvey Weinstein.

“Our business with the Weinstein Company is pretty arm’s distance,” Sarandos said. “We have a second window, an output deal on their films post-theatrical and some second-window television agreements with them.”

In reality, Netflix and the Weinstein Company have been much closer than “arm’s distance” for years. In 2013, Netflix lured TWC away from Showtime, where the studio had long had a film output agreement, in a deal that Harvey Weinstein at the time called, “probably the biggest deal in the history of The Weinstein Company.” TWC later negotiated the agreement for Netflix to serve as the U.S. home for Endemol Shine’s “Peaky Blinders.” (A TWC production card was removed from the series last week by Endemol Shine.)

In 2014, the two companies partnered on “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend.” TWC produced what was, at the time, a huge win for Netflix — an original film that would be made available on Netflix on the same day and date as its theatrical release, which took place in IMAX theaters. TWC also produced Netflix original series “Marco Polo,” one of the most expensive shows in television history. “The Green Legend” and “Marco Polo” were both costly critical failures for a streaming service that previously had few.

And Sarandos and Weinstein are hardly personal strangers. Weinstein interviewed the Netflix executive at a UBS conference in 2012. And when Sarandos faced tough questions about at a public event in Cannes in 2015 near the release of “The Green Legend,” Weinstein — who was in the audience — rose to his feet to praise his business partner, announcing, as IndieWire reported, “I came here to defend Ted today because I thought somebody was going to talk about the whole movie theater thing, in case he goes off on that tangent, I better come as a bodyguard. But I’m even more thrilled where this conversation went and how visionary this company is.”

The most public partnership between Netflix and TWC has been the Golden Globes party that the two companies have co-hosted for the last three years. A source with knowledge of the situation said that no discussions have taken place about continuing with the party. Globes parties typically are not planned in earnest until later in the calendar year, although some hosts are placing soft hold on locations as early as October.

A Netflix spokesperson declined to comment for this story.

Netflix has turned down multiple requests for comment about Weinstein’s actions since news broke two weeks ago about allegations that the mogul harassed and assaulted multiple women over several decades. Several longtime Weinstein business partners, including former DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, former Walt Disney Co. CEO Michael Eisner, and A+E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc have publicly condemned Weinstein.

Dubuc, whose company has worked with Weinstein on “Project Runway,” “War and Peace,” and “Six,” told Variety Oct. 10, “This kind of behavior exists day in and day out. It shouldn’t take people who push it to the extremes to get people’s attention.”

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