It's Time to Disband the Unofficial Netflix Protection Society
When cranky genius Steven Spielberg asserted that movies from streaming services that only get a token release in theaters shouldn't be eligible for Academy Awards, it felt like anyone who's anyone from both coasts rushed to Netflix's defense. While the director hadn't mentioned Netflix by name, it was clear his indignation came from Roma getting top nods and three Oscars this year, while more big titles (including one from Martin Scorsese) are coming soon. Those movies should be up for Emmys instead, Spielberg said. The reaction was strong, as journos and glitterati pointed out that Netflix helps viewers see movies they wouldn't be able to see otherwise, and that Roma was no TV movie.
When WarnerMedia Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt swatted at Netflix with the accusation that it doesn't have a strong brand identity and is simply a vast resource, like Encyclopedia Britannica, it could have been dismissed as the defensive accusation of an exec about to launch a competing product. But that didn't stop Variety co-editor-in-chief Andrew Wallenstein from pointing out that in our streaming era the enormity of Netflix's library will always outdraw a smaller curated service, and that the comparison to Encyclopedia Britannica is baseless.
And when fans of Netflix's One Day at a Time said Netflix was hurting cultural diversity by cancelling the show (which, Netflix said, didn't draw enough viewers to justify costs), a Slate writer called it unfortunate but noted, "Great shows get canceled all the time, and the world keeps spinning." The show's creators are shopping it around to other platforms, so its devoted fan base might still keep it alive.
In each of these cases people rushed to defend a company they love. I get that, and I'm glad people have so much goodwill for Netflix. It's a tremendously innovative and successful company that's changed how we get our entertainment. I love it too: It offers great content at a fair price.
But please, keep in mind that Netflix is enormous. It's the first global network and it's only getting larger in the years ahead. If it's shut out of the Oscars and Cannes, if its competitors find a foothold, if it has to drop some wonderful but niche series, it will still do just fine. We can all relax our fiery editorials. Save them for real issues and smaller companies that could use the attention.
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