Netflix makes directors an offer they can’t refuse

And it can create a bit of a sticky situation for directors.


December 28, 2016

In true Silicon Valley form, Netflix has sucked the life taken the guess work out of its creative negotiations by using a strict algorithm to value its potential content deals.

This hardnose tactic may explain why the company would spend $13 million per episode on The Crown, but pass on Seinfeld (Seinfeld, Jerry!). However, it also puts filmmakers like Craig Atkinson up against a wall when trying to break into the industry.

“Do Not Resist”

That’s the title of Atkinson’s debut documentary about US police militarization, but it also seems to be Netflix’s philosophy when it comes to striking a deal with directors.

Just days before his film’s premier at Tribeca, Netflix execs called, proposing a “mid six-figure offer”… with a few considerations. Namely that they would have full creative control over final edits, and even the movie title.

When he attempted to negotiate, Atkinson was told, figuratively, to “talk to the algorithm,” and decided to walk out on the offer.

That’s a bold move, Craig…

And a large price to pay for artistic integrity. Although “Do Not Resist” went on to win Best Documentary at Tribeca, landing him talks with several prospective buyers, all of these companies ultimately pulled out thanks to Netflix “blacklisting” the film.

Apparently, the streaming giant does a fun little thing when a director turns down a Netflix Original offer — they block all potential streaming deals for the movie on their platform.

In Atkinson’s case, this made his movie unattractive to buyers because it could no longer “own all revenue streams” (aka Netflix).

All’s not lost, though

Amazon rewarded Atkinson’s intestinal fortitude with a streaming deal, albeit for about a third the amount of Netflix’s original offer.

Plus, as Best Documentary, he got to take home Tribeca’s $20k grand prize… sponsored by Netflix, of course.

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