2.10.2020 5:23 PM

Culture

Netflix spent upwards of $100 million plugging its films for Oscar wins

$50M

About how much industry insiders estimate Netflix spent per Oscar it won.

The Wall Street Journal

VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images

Streaming service Netflix spent at least $100 million on pre-Oscar promotions to try and secure the coveted statuettes and burnish its reputation as a destination for top talent. That’s according to estimates from industry insiders who spoke to the Wall Street Journal about the company’s extravagant spending as it tried to woo Oscar voters ahead of last night’s awards. Erring on the conservative end of that estimate would mean Netflix’s pair of awards cost $50 million each. Yikes.

Netflix has had a bumper season when it comes to garnering award nominations. It secured seven from the Screen Actors Guild, 17 from the Golden Globes, and 24 from the Academy Awards. But few of those translated into wins. The real winner throughout was Laura Dern, who took home a prize at all three events for her supporting role in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story.

The second Oscar came for American Factory, which won Best Feature Documentary, a prize Netflix has won before for its doping doc, Icarus. Though that means the company tied for number of wins with Warner Brothers, it fell well behind the four wins each for production house Neon (the company behind Parasite), Sony Pictures, and Disney. Even Universal Studios managed three wins.

No luck of the Irish — Most frustrating must be the lack of wins for The Irishman, the epic mobster movie from Martin Scorcese that Netflix promoted with the sort of vigor usually reserved for Justin Bieber promoting Justin Bieber. Like Marriage Story, Netflix gave The Irishman a limited run in theaters before bringing it to streaming, at least in part to improve its Oscar prospects. The company used to favor same-day release on its platform and in theaters, but encountered pushback from theater owners, and likely from filmmakers, who like to see their wares make it to big screens and worry same-day keeps moviegoers watching at home.

Netflix can’t rely on box office performance to encourage Oscar voters to reward its creations, but also doesn’t have to factor the cost of promotional blitzes into the overall production costs of a movie the same way conventional studios do because its content remains watchable in perpetuity. As such, it can remain a drawcard to attract new subscribers, or help keep existing ones from defecting.

Laura Dern took home one of Netflix's pair of awards at the 92nd Academy Awards.Rachel Luna/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Why do awards even matter? — Awards are important to attract high caliber projects and people. And though many actors, directors, producers, and writers would likely protest, awards matter to them, too. If not because they look good above the fireplace, because they open doors to doing future projects by making it easier to raise funds or attract their dream collaborators.

The risk of Netflix’s approach is that it’ll create an arms race between itself, rival streaming services, and conventional studios to out promote one another each awards season. That could make it ever harder to turn a profit on productions, which could have a knock-on effect for budgets, price independents out of awards entirely, or reduce the amount of content made each year.

Alternatively, perhaps the Academy’s continued luke-warmth to Netflix when it comes to dishing out prizes will encourage it to focus on producing quality films rather than funding countless billboards, TV ads, pop-up memorabilia museums for nominated films, and lavish parties. We doubt it, though. Hollywood loves excess at least as much as Netflix loves awards.