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Why awards do matter for Netflix, Amazon, Apple and other streamers

Daniel Roberts
Editor-at-Large

At the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, Netflix had 20 nominations and ended up winning only two. Two weeks before, at the Golden Globes, Netflix had 34 nominations and won only two.

Netflix also leads all studios for Academy Award nominations this year with 24, but if the prior two awards nights are any indication, it won’t win more than a few.

But do awards really matter for Netflix’s (NFLX) business?

CFRA media analyst Tuna Amobi says yes. “It’s incredibly important,” he says. “I think the way to think about it is not just the impact to the bottom line. I think it’s the buzz that you generate, the brand-building impact of these awards, the fact that you’re able to leverage that to extend your relationships with Hollywood talent. I think you see a lot of directors and actors and actresses now willing to work with streaming studios because they understand that the visibility and flexibility that they get, outside of the traditional Hollywood system, is quite attractive.”

Jennifer Aniston accepts the award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a drama series for "The Morning Show" at the 26th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Los Angeles. (Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Even if wins are what people remember, nominations count too. And Netflix has led all traditional Hollywood studios in nominations this year for every big awards night: Golden Globes, SAGs, and Oscars. That in itself is a noteworthy milestone and a sign of where the puck is heading in prestige television.

That’s why Netflix’s spending is going to keep inflating, rather than shrinking. Netflix spent $15 billion on original content in 2019, and in 2020, CEO Reed Hastings said, “We plan on taking spend up quite a bit.”

[MORE: Why Netflix’s Reed Hastings was Yahoo Finance’s CEO of the Decade]

Critics have flagged the spending as cause for concern, but many analysts say this is what’s necessary to keep up in the streaming wars, with huge, deep-pocketed conglomerates like Comcast NBCUniversal (Peacock), AT&T (HBO Max) and Disney (Disney+, ESPN+) rushing in and ready to spend billions to gain a foothold.

“I think if you’re Netflix, it has for the most part worked out very well for them, despite the [small number of] wins,” Amobi says. “This quarter is going to be huge for their film releases, whether it’s ‘The Irishman’ or ‘Two Popes.’ And I think you’ve seen Netflix moving towards the hybrid model, despite the resistance they’re still facing from the theaters. So I think awards season is incredibly important for the streaming players.” Netflix announced fourth-quarter earnings results on Tuesday and beat expectations for subscriber growth. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings proudly touted the SAG award and Golden Globe for The Crown, plus Netflix’s 24 Oscar nods in the earnings statement.

If awards season does matter for streamers, Apple is celebrating this week after Apple TV+ got its first win: a SAG Award for Jennifer Aniston in “The Morning Show.” That came after Apple won zero Golden Globes. Amazon won three SAGs for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (comedy ensemble and Tony Shalhoub) and “Fleabag” (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), and Netflix won two for “The Crown” (drama ensemble) and “Marriage Story” (Laura Dern).

Expect the streaming awards noms each year to keep growing, rather than shrinking.

Daniel Roberts is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance and closely covers Netflix, Disney, and the streaming wars. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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