×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Disruptor Netflix Joins Big Studios at the Table With MPAA Membership, Analysts Say

Netflix is starting to look a lot like the media institutions it has been disrupting for years.

In one fell swoop on Tuesday, the streaming giant racked up an impressive 15 Academy Award nominations, including a best picture nod for Alfonso Cuaron’s black-and-white, Spanish-language drama “Roma.” Hours later came official word that the company had joined the Motion Picture Association of America, a trade group that issues content ratings for movies and represents Hollywood’s interests in Washington. It’s the first digital player to do so, potentially paving the way for an Amazon or an Apple to follow suit.

Breaking through the exclusive circles of the Academy and entering into the MPAA fellowship further establishes Netflix as a storied media brand. Is it a sign that a tech player that thrived on being an iconoclast that happily squabbles with legacy industries like the movie theater chains has started to mature into something different? Has Netflix’s rebel spirit been co-opted?

After all, the MPAA is a group populated by Netflix’s frenemies, the major studios: Disney and 20th Century Fox (soon to occupy one slot, post-merger), Warner Bros., Paramount, Universal and Sony Pictures. Joining those ranks is a significant moment in Netflix’s journey to gain the respect of its peers as a cinematic force (despite its nearly-invisible footprint in movie houses), industry analysts told Variety.

“Netflix joining the MPAA is as much about the larger institutional change at Netflix as it is about the other studios adapting to the business model Netflix created,” said Rajiv Menon, a digital and emerging platform consultant with a PhD in American culture from NYU.

“Their commitment to ‘Roma’ shows a pretty radical change in what Netflix wants to provide as a cinema-going experience,” Menon said of the unprecedented theatrical push and and generous awards campaign spending on the Cuaron film, “but those other institutions are already getting in Netflix’s game.”

He refers, of course, to the oncoming glut of in-house Netflix competitors from Disney, Warner Media and Comcast, which will roll out in the next two years.

Kay Koplovitz, a former chairman and CEO of USA Networks, said the MPAA move “isn’t surprising at all. In the last few years they’ve demonstrated their ability to mount award-winning series and now movies. But I disagree with the premise that they’re just like any big media company. The enormous data configuration they have on subscribers alone puts them ahead of the pack.”

Netflix’s entry is welcome news for the studios in one respect. It means that they won’t have to scramble to come up with the millions of dollars in dues that will be lost once Fox is absorbed by Disney. But Netflix gets something out of the deal too.

The MPAA’s policy arm works relentlessly to combat global content piracy, which will top $50 billion between 2016 and 2022, according to a 2017 report from Digital TV Research. That will mostly affect digital players, the report found. Netflix has been subject to several data breaches, instances of piracy that allowed entire seasons of shows like “Orange is the New Black” to leak online before they premiered. If it wants to crack down on that kind of theft, it could use the expertise of some expert Beltway wheel-greasers. Keeping its content secure will only grow in importance as Netflix delves deeper into the original content space. The company’s upcoming film slate includes the Ben Affleck heist film “Triple Frontier” and the Martin Scorsese crime drama “The Irishman” starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.

Netflix COO Ted Sarandos hinted as much in a statement, saying joining the MPAA “further exemplifies our commitment to ensuring the vibrancy of these creative industries and the many talented people who work in them all over the world.”

Mary Murphy, an associate professor at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication, said the industry can “either build a wall to block all the disruptors or open up to all the creative intruders.”

For now, Murphy was reminded of an old movie quote: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” she said

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Maelle Arnaud

    Lumière Chief Programmer Maelle Arnaud: 'Film History Doesn't Have Parity'

    LYON– As Lumière Institute head programmer since 2001, Maelle Arnaud helped launch the Lumière Festival in 2009 and has watched it grow in international esteem over then decade that then followed. This year, the festival 190 films in 424 screening spread out all over town. It will come to a close this coming Sunday, but [...]

  • Girl with Green Eyes

    Talking Pictures TV: Bringing the Past Back to Life in the U.K.

    LYON, France – Since its launch in 2015, Talking Pictures TV has become the fastest-growing independent channel in the U.K. with a growing library of British film and TV titles that span five decades, according to founder Noel Cronin. Noel Cronin attended the Lumière Festival’s International Classic Film Market (MIFC) in Lyon, France, where he [...]

  • Wings of Desire

    German Heritage Sector Applauds Increased Digitization, Preservation Funding

    LYON, France  — Germany’s film heritage sector is celebrating a new federal and state-funded initiative launching in January that will provide €10 million ($11.15 million) a year towards the digitization and preservation of feature films. Rainer Rother, the artistic director of the Deutsche Kinemathek, outlined the plan at a panel discussion at the Lumière Festival’s [...]

  • 'QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight'

    Film Review: 'QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight'

    In one of the intermittent revealing moments in “QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight,” a documentary about the films of Quentin Tarantino that’s like a familiar but tasty sundae for Quentin fans, we see Tarantino on the set of “Pulp Fiction,” shooting the iconic dance contest at Jack Rabbit Slim’s. As John Travolta and Uma [...]

  • Zombieland Double Tap

    Why Emma Stone Was Haunted by Fear of Vomiting While Shooting 'Zombieland: Double Tap'

    SPOILER ALERT: The following story contains a slight spoiler for “Zombieland: Double Tap.” The zombie slayers are back! Ten years after Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin first killed dead people walking in “Zombieland,” they’ve reunited for “Zombieland: Double Tap.” “You take stock of your life a little bit,” Stone says of [...]

  • Hereditary

    The Best Horror Films to Stream Right Now

    Good horror movies aren’t always easy to scare up, but with Halloween on the horizon, Variety has compiled a list of some of the best horror films available on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. NETFLIX Apostle Cult horror meets religious hypocrisy in this creepy gothic thriller, which follows prodigal son Thomas Richardson, who returns home [...]

  • Brett Gelman

    'Stranger Things' Star Brett Gelman Joins Michael B. Jordan in 'Without Remorse'

    Brett Gelman, best known for his scene-stealing roles in “Fleabag,” “Stranger Things” and “Love,” has joined Michael B. Jordan in Paramount’s adaptation of Tom Clancy’s “Without Remorse.” Jamie Bell and Jodie Turner-Smith are also on board. Jordan is starring as operations officer John Clark, also known as John Terrence Kelly, a former Navy SEAL who [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content