- Netflix netted eight Oscar nominations on Monday, surpassing its total haul from all previous years.
- RBC analyst Mark Mahaney spoke to Business Insider about how Oscar hauls will help Netflix, but “may not be critical” for its success moving forward.
Netflix grabbed a record eight Oscar nominations on Monday, signaling that the streaming service’s film business has started to overcome what some critics have called an “anti-Netflix bias” in Hollywood and among Oscar voters.
Netflix’s critically acclaimed original drama “Mudbound” earned four nominations for the company, including nods for best supporting actress (Mary J. Blige) and best adapted screenplay (writer-director Dee Rees). The streaming service also earned three nominations for its documentaries “Icarus,” “Strong Island,” and “Heroin(e),” and one nod for the foreign language film “On Body and Soul.”
In previous years, Netflix earned a total of seven Oscar nominations, dating back to its first nod for the 2014 documentary “The Square.” Last year, Netflix grabbed three nominations for documentaries and won its first-ever Oscar for the documentary short “The White Helmets.”
Netflix makes a big push into film
But the Academy has taken a while to warm up to the streaming service.
In 2016, critics cited the Oscars’ snub of Netflix’s critically acclaimed drama “Beasts of No Nation” as evidence that the industry was “turned off” by Netflix’s business model, which debuts films on the streaming service simultaneously with theatrical releases.
“Dunkirk” director Christopher Nolan, for instance, called Netflix’s film strategy “mindless” last year, while praising Amazon Studios for instituting a 90-day theatrical release window for films that it will later stream.
Netflix’s notable success with “Mudbound,” however – its first non-documentary feature to earn an Oscar nod – comes amid a huge push for the company into the realm of original film. The streaming service has said it plans to release more than 80 original movies over the course of 2018.
But what do critical acclaim and awards season recognition really mean for the success of Netflix’s original content moving forward?
RBC analyst Mark Mahaney spoke to Business Insider about how the streaming service will likely continue to prioritize audience numbers over critical acclaim as its barometer of success.
Critical success “may not be critical”
Mahaney pointed to the commercial success of Netflix’s critically panned, Will Smith-led original movie “Bright” as an example of how critical reception may not mean too much to Netflix.
“Positive critical reviews and things like Oscar hauls I think are very helpful for the company,” Mahaney said. “But I’m just struck by the fact that critical reviews may not be as critical as the market, and the evidence of that is the commercial success of ‘Bright,’ at least according to the company, versus the fact that it got relatively low ratings from the critics.”
“Bright,” a buddy-cop fantasy film, received a 26% “Rotten” rating from critics on the reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes after its December 22 premiere. By contrast, the film’s audience score on the site sits at an impressive 86% – a figure that Netflix CEO Reed Hastings recently cited to suggest that critics of “Bright” were “pretty disconnected from the mass appeal.”
Mahaney went on to predict that, despite Netflix’s increased output of original films and the relative commercial success of “Bright,” the streaming service will tend to prioritize original TV content over original movies.
“My guess is that they still spend more money on TV series versus film, because I think streaming lends itself so well to TV series,” Mahaney said. “With TV series, it involves continuous watching, but over a period of time, and you can binge or not. But with film, there’s just a two-hour installment, and that’s it for a year or two. So it doesn’t lend itself to some of the ease of use of streaming.”