Netflix vs Warner Bros: The streaming service sets its sights on the blockbuster market

The streaming giant are reported to have outbid Warner Bros. for an upcoming blockbuster

Netflix has reportedly signed a $90 million deal to get the rights to make “Bright”, a fantasy cop movie with Will Smith and Joel Edgerton. This isn't huge news to be frank; it’s not the first content deal Netflix has made, and it's not even the first movie they've released. What's interesting is the context around this, writes Kevin Kelly. 

Netflix won the rights to this movie ahead of Warners Bros. An online streaming service was able to outbid a major Hollywood studio to the rights of a movie that is already being touted as a potential franchise, similar in style to “Men in Black”.

This movie is a huge departure from the original content that Netflix has created in the past. Up to now Netflix has focused on documentary and serial dramas, with one or two feature length movies thrown in.

Now “Bright" sees them get into the subset of cinema that rakes in most of the money; the blockbuster. Think Avengers, Transformers, even Harry Potter; this is the territory that Netflix wants in on, and it's completely new water for online streaming video.

The blockbuster is more than just a good movie, and in most cases it’s not even a good movie. It’s a huge cultural event and advertising heyday. How does Netflix contend with what the major studios can do in terms of the promotion of the movie?

Netflix is very good at promotion. When they announced the new season of House of Cards, they pushed it as a presidential campaign launch right up beside those who actually were launching campaigns in the US.

“Bojack Horseman”, a cult cartoon series about a struggling horse actor, was really pushed by Netflix in bars and universities, with beer mats and signs in the toilets. Incredibly smart and innovative promotion.

The fact that so many people watch House of Cards, Daredevil, or Orange is the New Black is a testament to how good Netflix are at promotion. A website having the same level of success as major production houses is new, but it looks like the way things are going to be now.

The ‘Age of the Streaming Service’ has arrived. Without much notice or fanfare, it has completely realigned how we consume most of our content. But most of that content has been fairly limited so far in both its breadth and usage.

When people sit down to watch Netflix, it’s usually in the evenings when they’re just home from work. They’ll either put on a series they’ve seen before or a favourite movie, nothing too strenuous. That’s why Netflix put its effort into series at first, and it paid off. They satisfied both those who wanted to dip in and out and those who wanted to gorge on it all at once or in feature length chunks.

Proper feature length content has always been there, but mostly just stuff licensed from other studios. With Netflix now making its own feature length content, more importantly this style of feature length content, they’re moving in a direction where they want to make streaming video much more of an event, like going to see the latest blockbuster in the pictures.

You can’t dip in and out of a blockbuster movie. Netflix now want to own your eyes like the studios do.

It’s not just Netflix owning the streaming space. Yes, they’re the only ones really grasping major motion pictures, but others are still capitalizing on the more leisurely segment of watching.

Amazon are there with their Prime Video service. The series "Transparent" was a huge critical success for them, coming out of the blue for watchers. Now they have the former Top Gear lads working away on a new series for them, which will certainly see their subscriber base erupt in the not too distant future. Expect intense promotion for this show. You’ll be sick of Clarkson’s face, if you’re not already.

Streaming has entered a space nobody expected it to be in. It's truly overtaking regular television and movies. Turns out people like choice and to be able to choose what they want to watch.

In its fledgling days, streaming lacked the original hook it needed, offering something new and bold to make it stand out. That happened with series, and now with Netflix making its own blockbusters like Bright, streaming seems intent on being all video entertainment to all people.