As Hollywood studios have been feverishly carving out their spaces in the streaming world with the launch of services such as Disney Plus, HBO Max, and Peacock, Sony has remained remarkably quiet.
On Thursday it took a stand, announcing a deal with Netflix that will give the streamer access to Sony feature films starting in 2022, including the sequel to Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, and other Marvel titles not owned by Disney. The movies will be released on Netflix only after they’ve run in theaters and on premium video-on-demand services.
While Sony is stopping short of entering the streaming race by building up its own service, the deal with Netflix will provide the company with a new revenue geyser: The five-year deal is reportedly worth several hundreds of millions of dollars (the exact figure will depend on box office revenue) annually, and $1 billion over the course of the deal.
Netflix, meanwhile, will get access to the kinds of movies that have been steadily sucked from its platform as studios such as Disney and Warner Bros. have reined in licensing rights to their homegrown titles in order to populate Disney Plus and HBO Max, respectively. Although Disney owns the most plum Marvel titles (Captain America, Iron Man, Black Panther), which is a key drawing card for Disney Plus, Sony owns the rights to Marvel properties such as Morbius and Venom. Films based on those franchises will now land on Netflix, making it even more of a direct competitor to Disney Plus.
The deal also gives Netflix the right to exclusively pick up movies that Sony is making or licensing specifically for streaming, and to pick up films from Sony’s storied library.
The move signifies how hungry Netflix is for big, splashy movie titles—Marvel movies, specifically—that will help it compete with a growing number of rivals, which have direct access to tentpole properties. Warner Bros. announced that its entire 2021 slate will debut on HBO Max alongside theatrical runs, including titles such as Space Jam 2 and Dune. And Disney Plus is releasing much-anticipated titles, such as the new Pixar movie, Luca, solely on its streaming platform.
The Sony deal isn’t the only example of Netflix opening its pocketbook for valuable movie IP. It recently shelled out $450 million for the rights to the next two Knives Out sequels, starring Daniel Craig.
The streamer may not have a movie studio sibling to help feed it content, but as usual, it’s showing that there’s always another, albeit costly, way.