It was just a decade ago that Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) made it possible to stream movies and episodes of your favorite television programs over the internet. Since then, a host of imitators have followed suit, changing the media landscape forever. Some of the old guard has been slower to accept the shifting paradigm, and it wasn't until 2017 that streaming services got their first serious Academy Award consideration.
Netflix won best documentary short for White Helmets, but it was Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Manchester By the Sea that stole the show, picking up two Oscars -- best actor for Casey Affleck and best original screenplay for director Kenneth Lonergan. Many believed that Netflix's policy of releasing films for streaming on the same day they debuted in theaters left Oscar voters cold.
Revising that strategy appears to have paid off big, as Roma led the field with 10 Academy Award nominations (tied with The Favourite).
A change of heart
After years of sticking to its guns, Netflix relented this year, giving several of its high-profile films exclusive theatrical runs before they debuted on its streaming service. This move paid off for a couple of Netflix original movies, but none more so than Roma.
The movie, which is drawn from memories of director Alfonso Cuaron's childhood, was nominated for best picture. Cuaron also made history by being the first director to be nominated for both best director and best cinematography for the same picture. The movie also received nods for best screenplay and best foreign language film, among others.
That wasn't the only Netflix movie that was shown in theaters to receive nominations. The Coen brothers' Western anthology The Ballad of Buster Scruggs earned several nominations, including best-adapted screenplay and best original song.
GOOD MORNING, BEAUTIFUL WORLD.— Netflix Film (@NetflixFilm) January 22, 2019
I'm very excited to share that ROMA has been nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director-@AlfonsoCuaron, Best Actress-@YalitzaAparicio, Best Supporting Actress-@MarDeTavira, and Best Original Screenplay! pic.twitter.com/cHPJYBQq7o
A growing spotlight
Netflix's original movie programming has been making headlines recently. Netflix won five Golden Globes earlier this month, more than any other network, studio, or streaming service -- winning statues for both its television series and films. Roma took top honors for best director and best foreign language film. The Kominsky Method also won two awards -- best musical or comedy series and best actor in a musical or comedy series for Michael Douglas. Richard Madden won best actor in a drama series for The Bodyguard.
It isn't just the awards circuit that has been getting a lot of attention for Netflix. Bird Box, which also had a brief stint in theaters, became the most watched movie in Netflix's history, according to the company. In a tweet in late December, the company said the post-apocalyptic thriller was watched by more than 45 million accounts -- the "best first seven days ever for a Netflix film." In its recent earnings report, the company went even further, saying that 80 million member households -- or 57% of its worldwide subscriber base -- watched the movie in its first four weeks of release.
The film also went viral after viewers began wearing blindfolds to complete everyday tasks, a nod to the premise of the film. That prompted Netflix to tweet the following warning:
Can't believe I have to say this, but: PLEASE DO NOT HURT YOURSELVES WITH THIS BIRD BOX CHALLENGE. We don't know how this started, and we appreciate the love, but Boy and Girl have just one wish for 2019 and it is that you not end up in the hospital due to memes.— Netflix US (@netflix) January 2, 2019
There's no such thing as bad publicity
Taken together, the events discussed above illustrate how Netflix is raising its public profile among potential subscribers. Its recent Golden Globe wins, the massive viewership of Bird Box (no doubt helped by the viral nature of the #BirdBoxChallenge), and its field-leading 10 Academy Award nominations for Roma show how the company is capturing the public zeitgeist and attracting the subscribers of tomorrow.
Check out the latest Netflix earnings call transcript.