For Netflix to survive the high-stakes streaming wars they need more than a handful of hits, they need powerhouse franchises and the creators who can deliver them. The competition is certainly becoming fierce. Disney’s upcoming move into streaming includes Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm — who each produce 2-3 blockbusters per year, while shepherding deep benches of characters, stories, and settings. Netflix, by contrast, has worked with high-profile creators like Steven Soderbergh and the Coen Brothers, but their projects (thus far) tend to be one-off, toe-dipping exercises. What Netflix really needs are big-name creators who will commit to long-term relationships.
David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network, Zodiac) has been that guy for Netflix to-date; he’s produced two masterpieces of serialized storytelling in House of Cards and Mindhunter; the former put the streaming giant on the map, and the latter proved the value of continuing such creative relationships. Ongoing original series helped make Netflix’s name, but they’ve also committed to 80 original films in 2018 alone. Sure, they can purchase existing films from festivals and overseas markets, but they’ll also need to roll a bunch of their own.
Enter Matt Reeves, a wildly successful writer-director who’s credits include TV’s Felicity and Homicide: Life on the Street, and films like Cloverfield, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and (soon) The Batman. Reeves’ production company, 6th and Idaho, are already developing projects for Fox TV and Fox animation. Apparently, they have a lot of excess bandwidth there, as Netflix just signed the company to a multi-year, first-look deal. In this alliance, Reeves would produce or direct films through his production company for Netflix’s streaming platform.
Netflix’s head of film, Scott Stuber, had these comments about Reeves:
Matt is a fantastic storyteller with a unique vision and his track record speaks for itself. At Netflix we are partnering with the best filmmakers and know that Matt and his team will bring great inventive films to our global audience. We couldn’t be more excited to welcome him to the Netflix family.”
Additionally, Netflix greenlighted a sequel to David Ayer’s Bright, which debuted to bad reviews and huge ratings last month. Late last year they also acquired Mark Millar’s (Wanted, Kick-Ass) Millarworld suite of action and superhero properties.
Netflix now has a stable of high-profile creators with Fincher, Ayer, Millar, and Reeves, which they’re surely hoping attracts more of this stripe. This is one helluva group, who’s recent projects have earned billions at the global box office (in genres Netflix wants to dominate).
Reeves, for one, sees the opportunity at Netflix, who are well-known to lavishly support their creators, both creatively and financially. Reeves issued this response:
Netflix is at the forefront of a new age in how storytellers are reaching their audience. I am incredibly excited to be working with Scott and our teams to find and create thrilling, character-centered genre stories, and to guide and nurture new filmmaking voices.”
The survivors of the streaming wars will be the organizations that can juggle multiple TV and film properties, create and grow brands, attract and retain talent. It’s rather certain Disney will be standing atop that hill in a few years, but it’s less certain whether Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, and others will make it (some will, all will not). However, Netflix’s recent outreach efforts, to lock-down top Hollywood creators, certainly provides them with the weapons they’ll need to go toe-to-toe with Disney. These are still early days in this conflict, but it’s pretty clear who’s moving to seize the advantage.