Whatever the current witty term is for a horrible year – we’re long past annus horribilis – it’d be fair to say that streaming giant Netflix is having one.
Subscriber numbers are falling for the first time in its history, and its next round of quarterly results is likely to reveal a couple of million more lost. It’s making cutbacks, it’s losing catalogue films to rivals, and its bank account no longer looks bulletproof.
Furthermore, the firm has already strongly hinted that its money-no-object approach to more awards-worthy productions is winding down. It was revealed a month or two back that less commercial-facing films such as Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman – a film that cost nearly $200m and failed to land the streamer its much-coveted Best Picture Oscar – are no longer a priority.
And whilst that doesn’t mean it’s not going to back edgier fare, it does certainly mean it’ll be spending less money both on making and promoting such films. Safer bets such as the upcoming Knives Out sequel seem more likelier priorities.
Now, Jane Campion, director of The Power Of The Dog, has admitted she may have got lucky getting her own movie made at the point she did. She told the BBC that her film only got made because of Netflix’s funds in the end, and fears that “I do think they’re going to be more picky about other projects or, maybe, what’s sad is not taking risks on people without names”.
The Power Of The Dog was the hot favourite for this year’s Academy Awards, but was beaten at the post by the smaller, cheaper Coda, that was backed in the end by Apple. The Power Of The Dog itself wasn’t massively expensive, comparably, but the promotional campaign for it was.
This year’s awards race will certainly see Netflix as active as ever, given that its course corrections on its slate won’t have kicked in by this stage. The year after though, we’re likely to get a better steer as to how its new strategy is kicking in.
Sadly, if you’ve got a $200m prestige movie in your back pocket though, your moment with Netflix might just have gone. Whether your annus is horribilis or not.