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Netflix and Sony have formed an alliance in the streaming wars

Sony has replaced their pact with Starz, their new output deal granting Netflix 18 months of streaming exclusivity after theatrical releases.

The streaming wars continue to intensify, with Netflix and Sony Pictures Entertainment developing a licensing deal that will grant the streaming platform exclusive rights to the studio’s upcoming films after their theatrical release. The agreement will come into action in 2022, offering Netflix an 18-month window for exclusive streaming, and it’s expected to last five years.

The deal replaces a previous output arrangement with Lionsgate’s Starz, which began in 2005 and was last renewed in 2013, when Netflix was first starting their major disruption of the entertainment landscape. After multiple bidders fought for the deal for some time, Netflix emerged victorious, and Deadline has reported that sources revealed an offer greater than $1 billion to be paid over four years.

Sony Pictures Unchartered Tom Holland
Photo: Unchartered / Sony Pictures Entertainment

A whole range of highly-anticipated titles are already confirmed to stream exclusively on Netflix after their theatrical run and home entertainment releases, with the initial slate including Morbius, Bullet Train, Where the Crawdads Sing and the Uncharted adaptation that is finally headed to the silver screen.

Netflix has also confirmed that subscribers can look forward to future sequels to Venom, Jumanji, Bad Boys and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. As Sony releases new instalments of these franchises, Netflix can also gain access to their prior entries, along with select other titles in Sony’s vault.

Beyond gaining first access to streaming these theatrical titles, Netflix is also getting a first-look deal for direct-to-streaming titles Sony is contemplating, and they’ve committed to making “a number” of them. With Sony selling Tom Hanks film Greyhound to Apple TV+ when many cinemas in the US were closed, it’s possible that Netflix could get the first claim to releasing any similar projects that have diverted from their path to theatrical release.

This deal is likely to benefit both Sony and Netflix greatly, with the partnership arising in a time when rival studies are moving towards developing their own streaming services rather than renewing existing output deals. The promise of exclusive content will be a great boost for Netflix, who continues to slip in this shifting media landscape, especially with Disney+ claiming Marvel and Pixar titles.

Netflix’s film chief Scott Stuber emphasised the exciting nature of the partnership in their official announcement:

“Sony Pictures is a great partner and we are thrilled to expand our relationship through this forward-thinking agreement. This not only allows us to bring their impressive slate of beloved film franchises and new IP to Netflix in the US, but it also establishes a new source of first run films for Netflix movie lovers worldwide.”

The deal also benefits Sony, as a studio that has not yet developed their own subscription service, ensuring their films will end up on a major streaming platform and securing a significant source of revenue. Keith Le Goy, Sony’s chief of distribution and networks, praised the agreement for demonstrating “the importance of that content to our distribution partners as they grow their audiences and deliver the very best in entertainment”.

The fine details about how Sony and Netflix’s deal will function aren’t yet clear, such as how soon after theatrical release the titles will be available online. Pay-one window agreements usually let films hit streaming platforms after about nine months, though it’s possible that it could be quicker under this partnership, especially with many traditions of theatrical release being abandoned due to COVID-19’s shake up of the entertainment industry.

Now for the bad news – Spider-Man: No Way Home won’t be included, since the deal doesn’t kick in until next year. It’s unclear what will happen if MCU’s Spidey gets any more films after that, with Marvel and Sony’s co-ownership complicating matters, but at least Netflix subscribers can rest easy knowing they will be getting the highly anticipated sequel to Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse. 

It’s probably also worth noting that this deal only applies in the US. Where will Peter Parker and Sony’s other heroes and villains be found in the future for Australian viewers? Your guess is as good as ours.