Cinemas, watch out - Netflix is coming for you

Cinemas, watch out - the Netflix effect is heading your way
From TV to movies, Netflix style

Every time someone speaks at Netflix HQ, it must be like nails down a chalkboard for TV and movie execs.

The streaming service has gained so much momentum over the last year or so that every speech its executives make offers up an idea, an element, that will eventually prove disruptive to the entertainment business.

It wouldn't be a problem if Netflix's rhetoric was peppered with empty threats about changing age-old models of distribution but it's not.

It was only last week that Netflix Ted Sarandos revealed that Netflix wanted to stream movies as soon as they are released in the cinemas and now we have news that Netflix will exclusively release its first original feature-length film in early 2014.

Given that The Square is a documentary that has won both praise and awards from critics doing the film festival circuit, it is very likely this movie will be released as a stream and on the big screen simultaneously.

Simultaneous streaming

This certainly isn't a new idea. Another recent example is that of A Field In England, Ben Wheatley's mind-melding historical thriller which hit cinemas day and date as it went on Film4, both on TV and on demand.

The BFI is also getting into the action, with proposed day and date releases of some of its movies, to promote its new BFI Player.

These are tentative toe dips into streaming as a mainstream proposition, though - what Netflix is promising to do is much much bigger. It wants blockbusters to arrive on its service the same day as they hit the big screen.

As Sarandos said: "Why not premiere movies on Netflix, the same day they're opening in theatres? Why not big movies? Why not follow the consumers' desire to watch things when they want?"

For this to happen, a cultural shift needs to take place. A release window may well be an antiquated idea for many but it's a premise that movie studios and cinemas have an iron hold of, because they fear for their bottom line.

Not that Netflix cares, it is set to force the change by buying up and investing in big movies, much like it did with House of Cards on TV. Its all-you-can-eat approach to television was a success and once you prove something works the big guys follow suit, as we saw Sky do recently.

Shifting cultures

Sky's latest decision to add its TV channels to its PAYG Now TV streaming service is one that the company wouldn't have taken lightly. But it is something that needed to done to ensure that it keeps eyes on its shows.

Given that Sky is such a juggernaut, a public company that needs to jump through hoops to greenlight anything, nobody really expected it to move this fast to stave off the competition from Netflix and, to a lesser extent, Lovefilm.

But since the launch of the cheap and cheerful Now TV box in July – the perfect Trojan horse for Sky's content – it has streamlined streaming, freeing up its content for people who don't want to commit to a satellite contract.

The Now TV box was a bold move, offering its TV content is a brave one. This means that its three main assets are now available – movies, sport, TV – contract free to anyone with a broadband connection and Sky's tiny white box.

Would Sky have moved to change its model so quickly if it didn't see the likes of Netflix as a threat?

Of course it wouldn't. But the way the world watches is changing – and the only way to survive is to adapt. Sky has done it and now with Netflix encroaching on the movie world, cinemas and studios have to do the same.

Or, at the very least, treat streaming with respect rather than a shrug.

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.