The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been put on notice by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) over potential rule changes that could block Netflix Inc. and other streaming services at the Oscars.
Makan Delrahim, DOJ antitrust division chief, sent a warning letter dated March 21 to Academy Chief Executive Dawn Hudson, according to a report by Variety. In the letter, Mr. Delrahim said that changing the Academy’s rules to exclude Netflix and others is likely to violate competition law and raise antitrust issues.
“In the event that the Academy — an association that includes multiple competitors in its membership — establishes certain eligibility requirements for the Oscars that eliminate competition without procompetitive justification, such conduct may raise antitrust concerns,” the letter said.
A spokesperson of the Academy confirmed told Variety in an email statement: “We’ve received a letter from the Department of Justice and have responded accordingly. The Academy’s Board of Governors will meet on April 23 for its annual awards rules meeting, where all branches submit possible updates for consideration.”
Hollywood heavyweights such as legendary director Steven Spielberg have explicitly criticized Netflix for failing to debut its award-worthy films on traditional theaters. Mr. Spielberg argues that Netflix’s original films should not contend the Oscar awards, and that they will always be “TV movies.”
The 72-year-old director is said to be pushing for significant rule change at the Academy to ensure that films made by Netflix and other streaming services conform to traditional protocols and release windows en route to Oscar nominations. However, it is unclear whether or not Netflix would welcome requirements that force it to air movies exclusively in theaters for a certain period of time in order to qualify for the Oscars.
Netflix critics say the streaming giant only opens up its movies to US moviegoers for a short period of time and in a small number of cinemas purely to be nominated for Oscar awards. The company took home four Oscar awards earlier this year for Alfonso Cuarón’s masterpiece Roma, and Period. End of Sentence, a 26-minute documentary film.
Prior to the Oscars, Netflix played three of its prestige films (including Roma) in select cinemas in the US and overseas for three weeks before paying subscribers got a chance to stream them online.
Netflix, Inc. Profile
Netflix’s primary business is a streaming video on demand service now available in almost every country worldwide except China. Netflix delivers original and third-party digital video content to PCs, Internet-connected TVs, and consumer electronic devices, including tablets, video game consoles, Apple TV, Roku, and Chromecast.
In 2011, Netflix introduced DVD-only plans and separated the combined streaming and DVD plans, making it necessary for subscribers who want both to have separate plans.