Netflix Deal With Brad Pitt Shows Ongoing Efforts to Innovate

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NetflixIn its ongoing effort to revolutionize entertainment (and innovate how the entertainment industry operates), Netflix announced a deal today to finance and distribute Brad Pitt’s next film venture. Much like HBO revamped the idea of television series, seasons and made-for-TV films 20 years ago, Netflix continues to redefine how shows – and now movies – are made and distributed. But, can it continue or will the market be oversaturated?

The streaming media company reportedly paid $30 million for the Pitt film War Machine, which would make it the largest acquisition to date for Netflix. The firm previously made deals with Adam Sandler and others who do not guarantee the interest Pitt does. They include a Ricky Gervais film, Special Correspondents and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend, a sequel to the 2000 martial arts hit.

War Machine is a satirical comedy of modern war decision-makers, who are determined to win an “impossible” war with a radical new approach. It follows U.S. General Stanley McChrystal and his staff, his press advisers feeding the voracious media, and the men and women out in the battlefields. Inspired by the nonfiction book The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan by Michael Hastings. The film is set reportedly start filming in August. The streaming company plans to distribute the flick simultaneously online to its approximately 60 million subscribers and in theaters worldwide next year.

Deals like the Pitt one ensure that box office dollar figures will not necessarily be a barometer of success in the future and could allow more specialized fare to get made – with guaranteed distribution. The service’s ability to reach so many viewers on a variety of devices has got to be appealing to a producer.

Some are likening Netflix role as a throwback to early Hollywood. Back then, a movie studio made films, distributed them and showed them in their theater chain. This model has worked well for its popular series House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black. However, it is not clear how well their other original shows are doing. The company does not release ratings or other traditional viewership information. (It is also not clear how competitors like Hulu are doing.)

Additionally, theater owners have not reacted positively to the company’s plans to distribute fare in theaters while streaming it. Several theater chains immediately announced they would not show Netflix’ films if distributed in theaters and on the service when the Crouching Tiger deal was announced.

Netflix’ own plans, according to their Web site, are to globally offer movies and television series on any Internet-connected screen commercial-free (give or take promos for their own fare), with unlimited viewing for an affordable no-commitment monthly fee. They state that they do not want to “compete on breadth of entertainment with Amazon, Comcast, Apple, Sony or others.  “For us to be hugely successful we have to be a focused passion brand. Starbucks, not 7-Eleven.”

Netflix also indicated their plans to spend more than $3 billion this year on content (both original and licensing) to reach a variety of tastes. They recognize that there is the risk of overdoing the original content. The company plans to pace themselves on original content spending to ensure a high percentage of hits. The deal with Brad Pitt shows Netflix ongoing efforts to innovate entertainment.

By Dyanne Weiss

Sydney Morning Herald: Even Brad Pitt’s going to Netflix: War Machine picked up by the streaming service
Netflix Long Term View
Los Angeles Times: Brad Pitt’s McChrystal movie ‘War Machine’ acquired by Netflix
Variety: Why Netflix Adoption of Video Advertising Would Be a Total Disaster
TIME: Netflix Just Struck a Big Movie Deal With This Huge Hollywood Star