Netflix Exclusive Movie Deal With Sony Helps Define The Streaming Age

Netflix continues to produce large chunks of original, high-profile TV series and movies -- a subject that continues to grab headlines.

But the backstory is that it still needs to fill its platform by utilizing in-house as well as outside efforts. Most recently, this was illustrated by an exclusive five-year movie deal it made with Sony Pictures Entertainment, a major Hollywood studio.

Pretty standard entertainment deal? Perhaps. But think about Sony. It isn’t like other big legacy TV-movie production companies. It doesn’t own a major U.S. TV network, although it does own some international TV networks and channels.

More importantly, it owns no major streaming services, such as WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, NBCUniversal’s Peacock, ViacomCBS’s Paramount+ or Walt Disney’s Disney+. Sony did try to enter the virtual pay TV platform business with Playstation Vue. But after five years, it pulled the plug in January 2020.



With Netflix, Sony returned to a more familiar TV-movie distribution deal -- akin to those in the pre-premium streaming age. This is pretty much a regular distribution deal, respecting traditional movie distribution windows.

Here, movie theaters (and Sony Home Entertainment businesses) will get the first exclusive airing of Sony movies, which will be followed by Netflix streaming airings. No simultaneous airings of premium streaming and in-theater airings for any move. The deal starts in 2022.

Still, Sony will make two to three direct-to-streaming movies a year for Netflix, expanding Sony’s slate and giving Netflix exclusive films for its service.

If the Netflix/Sony deal sounds like part of a returning trend, consider that WarnerMedia’s Warner Bros. recently struck a movie-theater deal with Cineworld Corp. -- owner of Regal Cinemas -- where the movie chain will get films on a 45-day exclusive basis before streaming on WarnerMedia’s HBO Max.

All this comes as Jason Kilar, CEO of WarnerMedia, now says it probably would have been useful to have more discussions with movie producers, directors and cinemas group before making a controversial decision to simultaneously air theatrical movies on HBO Max and movie theaters at the same time.

Media business-decision reflections are back. New normal, old normal? Perhaps something in between.

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