Steven Spielberg may try to block Netflix and other streaming services from inclusion in the Oscars race, a declaration of war that would split allegiances in Hollywood.

March 4, 2019 | Hollywood


Good morning. SXSW Calendar:


• On FridayI'll interview Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman in a keynote event on Quibi and the future of mobile entertainment.


• On Saturday: I'll interview Howard Schultz about the new rules of civic engagement and his possible presidential bid.


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Steven Spielberg vs. Netflix


Talk of Tinseltown: Steven Spielberg may try to block Netflix and other streaming services from inclusion in the Oscars race, a declaration of war that would split allegiances among Hollywood creatives and rekindle the industry's debate over what constitutes cinema.


• Spielberg and other members of Hollywood's old guard chafed at Roma's inclusion in the Oscars race, in part because Netflix gave it a short, three-week theatrical window and did not release box office statistics.


• Spielberg & Co.'s protest is seen as archaic and out of touch by some, especially filmmakers and talent who have Netflix contracts.


What's Next: Spielberg, who represents directors at the Academy, plans to propose changes to the awards rules at the group's next meeting. His proposals would likely make Netflix films eligible for Emmys, not Oscars.


• “Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation," an Amblin spokesperson tells Indiewire. "He’ll be happy if the others will join [his campaign] when that comes up [at the Academy Board of Governors meeting]. He will see what happens.”


Netflix Films reax: "We love cinema."


• “Here are some things we also love ... Access for people who can't always afford, or live in towns without, theaters ... Letting everyone, everywhere enjoy releases at the same time ... Giving filmmakers more ways to share art ... These things are not mutually exclusive."


How It's Playing: "Steven Spielberg Criticized For Plan To Block Netflix From Oscars," by Deadline's Anita Bennett ... "His latest anti-Netflix efforts have sparked concern among some industry insiders, including Ava DuVernay ... actor Bruce Campbell ... [and] actor Jean Elie."


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John Stankey's plan


Talk of Midtown: AT&T/WarnerMedia chief John Stankey plans to unite HBO and Turner under a more streamlined leadership structure, a strategic shift that last week led to the resignations of HBO chief Richard Plepler and Turner chief David Levy.


What's Next:


• Former NBC Entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt is still expected to take the helm of the combined networks, as I reported last week.


• CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker, an aspiring sports media executive, is now expected to add Turner Sports to his portfolio.


The Big Picture, via WSJ's Joe Flint"By combining HBO and Turner, AT&T is taking a page from Disney and Comcast, where production studios work much more closely with their channels and platforms than the units of the old Time Warner, where infighting and turf battles were common."


• "The consolidation at WarnerMedia is likely to result in what senior executives are describing as a greater amount of streamlining between units and what some junior executives are calling massive layoffs."


On the digital front, via WSJ's Ben Mullin: Stankey is also planning to revamp CNN's digital operation, "which he believes isn’t reaching its potential and requires more investment in product development and data analytics."


• "Stankey wants tens of millions of mobile users to be spending in the neighborhood of 10 minutes a day with CNN content."

🕺🏻 Rally the Market 🕺🏻


Moving the Market: Part 1 of HBO's Michael Jackson documentary "Leaving Neverland" aired last night. NYT's Elizabeth Harris says it "contains granular, disturbing detail that could reshape his legacy for years to come."


• NYT's Wesley Morris: "It’s the question of our #MeToo times: If we believe the accusers ... what do we do with the art?"


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Rupert Murdoch's Trump ties


New in this week's New Yorker ... Jane Mayer looks at Rupert Murdoch, Bill Shine, Sean Hannity and the unprecedented ties between President Trump and the Fox News Channel:


• "Fox News has always been partisan," she writes. "But has it become propaganda?"


The Big Picture: "It is hardly unprecedented for American media barons to go beyond their pages to try to influence the course of politics. ... But now a direct pipeline has been established between the Oval Office and the office of Rupert Murdoch, the Australian-born billionaire who founded News Corp and 21st Century Fox."


The ties that bind:


•  "Nothing has formalized the partnership between Fox and Trump more than the appointment ... of Bill Shine, the former co-president of Fox News, as director of communications and deputy chief of staff at the White House."


• "Multiple sources told me that Murdoch and Trump often talk on the phone. ... Having Murdoch’s — and Fox’s — support is essential for Trump, [an] aide says: 'It’s very important for the base.'"


• "Murdoch may be even closer to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. ... Kushner now has an almost filial status with Murdoch, who turns eighty-eight this month, and numerous sources told me that they communicate frequently. 'Like, every day,' one said."


Thought bubble: Mayer's very long piece oddly does not mention CNN President Jeff Zucker, who has been publicly referring to Fox News as "State Run TV" for many, many months.


Bonus: Mayer also reports that Trump ordered Gary Cohn to pressure the DOJ to file the lawsuit to block the AT&T/Time Warner deal.

Market Links 


Ren Zhengfei prepares a Huawei lawsuit against the U.S. (NYT)


Zhang Yiming's TikTok passes one billion global downloads (FT)


Vivek Shah talks about his $4 billion media business (Recode)


John Landgraf waits for the close of Disney-Fox deal (Adweek)


Emily Sheffield launches an Instagram news startup (BuzzFeed)


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Matt Sacks enters podcast war


What's Next, via NYT's Brooks Barnes: "A podcast start-up called Luminary ... has emerged from stealth mode to unveil nearly $100 million in funding and a subscription-based business model that it hopes will push the medium into a new phase of growth."


• "We want to become synonymous with podcasting in the same way Netflix has become synonymous with streaming,” Matt Sacks, Luminary’s co-founder and chief executive, said in an interview.


The cost: $8 a month.


The offer: More than 40 exclusive shows at launch, all without ads.


The Competitive Field: "Apple devices have long dominated the podcast market. ... Google has reintroduced a podcast player. ... Spotify paid a reported $230 million for Gimlet Media."


• "Other podcast platforms include Stitcher, Pocket Casts, Overcast and Castbox. ... Himalaya Media... announced last month that it had raised $100 million and would introduce a podcast-distribution app with exclusive shows and a feature that would allow listeners to leave gratuities."


The Big Picture: The podcast space is the hot growth market right now, with advertising revenue almost doubling annually. But its total ad revenue still accounts for less than 1% of the digital ad market — which means subscriptions may yet prove to be the smarter play.


Drew Angerer/Getty

What Peter Chernin saw


The Big Picture, via Digiday's Max Willens: "Venture capital firms might have soured on digital media companies over the past few years, but many sports media companies continue to draw backing."


• "Last week, The Chernin Group-owned Action Network, which focuses on the growing world of sports betting, announced a $17.5 million Series B round."


• "On Feb. 21, the distributed video startup Overtime raised $23 million as it looks to build a bigger content business."


• "Late last year, The Athletic raised nearly $40 million in a Series B round led by Founders Fund, with contributions from Comcast Ventures and other investors."


The Big Picture: "Investors feel that sports, with its engaged, loyal fan bases, might offer the right foundation for media businesses that are diversified with various revenue sources beyond display ads."


• "These sports publishers are also a lot less reliant on a single platform such as Facebook, which powered a lot of the audience growth that fueled the last VC funding craze for media companies."

What Next: While we're on sports and podcasts — and, for that matter, Trump — Bill Simmons' latest is worth a listen.


See you tomorrow.


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