As streaming wars heat up, Netflix goes to the theatre

streaming vs cinema
Image credit | Lee

One of the bravest and sometimes most effective business strategies is to do a U turn. News abounds of the heat being turned up in the streaming wars, as Netflix finds itself in the same ring as Amazon, Apple and now Disney.

So Netflix is investing in the theatre experience. They have taken a lease on a landmark theatre in New York, that had been closed for over 70 years. Their strategy is to resurrect the theatre experience and then stream the film involved soon after the theatre opening.

The company is also investing in names. ‘The Irishman’, directed by Martin Scorsese, is widely seen as a ‘passion project’ for the seasoned Director and it was Netflix that allowed him to make the three and a half hour epic “the way it needed to be made” (fill in the comments section for that one).

The resurrection of the theatre going experience is not designed to take some of the streaming market away. According to a survey by Ernst & Young, people who go to theatre watch just as much, possibly more content via streaming services. There is also the small issue of Awards. You have to have screened a film in a theatre before you can be nominated for an Award.

Whilst industry observers believe that other streaming services will follow suit in some form, it turns out that big brands are trialling the theatre experience too. Selfridges in Oxford Street, London, has an in-house theatre now, in collaboration with a boutique cinema. This will allow Selfridges to broaden its loyalty schemes and deepen the overall customer experience.

It is an interesting play by a first mover and one that is reminiscent of Amazon’s move into bricks and mortar. Amazon was known as the online store that had everything and still did the U turn.

EasyJet is another example. Launched as the low-cost airline, it dragged the other airlines into a Spartan style pricing war, then bounced back to offer allocated seating, business class travel, speedy boarding, a club, loyalty cards and more.

Netflix had to do something in the face of competition from the likes of giants such as Disney, Amazon and Apple and this might be one that catches on.

It will be interesting to see, in a couple of years’ time, what partnerships and potential technologies such as 5G bring to the table.

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