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Netflix's 4 Oscar wins solidify the new normal in Hollywood

Daniel Roberts
Senior Writer

“Thank you, Netflix” is a sentence we’ve gotten used to hearing at television awards events like the Emmys. But you may not have expected to hear it in an Oscars acceptance speech for the Academy’s most prestigious awards.

That changed on Sunday.

Viewers of the Oscars heard it from Rayka Zehtabchi, the director of the Netflix documentary “Period. End of Sentence.” And later in the broadcast, Alfonso Cuaron, director of “Roma,” thanked “Ted Sarandos, Scott Stuber, and Julie Fontaine at Netflix.”

Netflix (NFLX) took home four Oscars at the 2019 Academy Awards: three for “Roma” (Cinematography, Foreign Language Film, and Director) and one (Documentary Short) for “Period. End of Sentence.”

Netflix spent $12 billion on original content in 2018, an eye-popping figure that now looks worth it—at least if you judge awards as one marker of success.

With 4 wins, Netflix tied Disney, Fox, and Universal for the most wins by any studio.

These were not Netflix’s first Oscar wins. The streaming service won Documentary Short in 2017 for “The White Helmets” and Documentary in 2018 for “Icarus.” But this year, Netflix got its first wins outside the documentary categories, and it grabbed two of the ‘biggies’ with Cinematography and Director.

Last month, Netflix had a big night at the Golden Globes, winning five statues: two for “Roma,” two for the original series “The Kominsky Method,” and one for “The Bodyguard,” a BBC series Netflix distributes outside the U.K.

Alfonso Cuaron accepts the award for best cinematography for "Roma" at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Amazon Studios got its first Oscar wins in 2017, for Original Screenplay and Best Actor (“Manchester By The Sea”), and Foreign Language Film (“The Salesman”).

It is the start of the new normal in Hollywood. This was the first year Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu all had Oscar nominations. (Amazon and Hulu did not win.) Soon enough, nominations and wins for streaming services will become commonplace, no longer remarkable. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has already become a fixture at Hollywood awards ceremonies.)

The awards success of Netflix and Amazon also puts the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences under the microscope for its ancient rule that a film must be shown in theaters to be eligible for Oscars. Reed Hastings and Jeff Bezos surely would like to see that rule die.

Netflix has been on a hot streak since December, when it ended 2018 by surprise-releasing “Bird Box,” the Sandra Bullock horror thriller. Netflix said 45 million accounts watched the movie in the first 7 days. That was without Netflix spending on any outside marketing of the film ahead of time.

“Bird Box” proved, as former Amazon Studios exec Matt Ball tweeted, that “the most valuable real estate in the world is the top fold of Netflix home page. And Netflix not only controls it, they don’t rent it to anyone.”

Netflix stock is up 36% this year. Amazon is up just 8%. Both streaming platforms are sure to be in the mix again during next year’s awards season.

Daniel Roberts is a senior writer at Yahoo Finance and closely covers streaming tech. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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