You might not know this, but I’ve dabbled in the screenwriting of commercial motion pictures. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of them: The Usual Suspects, Fargo, Titanic, Gladiator, No Country for Old Men, The Hurt Locker. Well, okay, so I didn’t write any of those, but if I hadn’t been so busy surfing the Web every day, I probably could have.
Anyway, here’s a screenplay I’m shopping around the movie studios right now. It’s titled The Monster That Ate Hollywood’s Lunch! A guy is charged a late fee when he returns a rented movie. Pissed off, he starts a little company that rents DVDs by mail. Pretty soon, it’s mailing more than a million DVDs every day. Hollywood is amused by the startup. But then the little company becomes wildly successful, begins to dominate Internet movie streaming, and eventually overwhelms the Hollywood studios, as well as cable and satellite. The End. But for some reason, none of the studios wants to hear this story. I can’t understand why. It seems like a terrific summer blockbuster to me.
Of course, my screenplay is based on the Netflix story. From its humble beginnings in 1997, Netflix has become the world’s leading Internet service for viewing movies and TV shows. The number of subscribers rose to 17 million, up 53% from a year ago, and its stock price has increased ninefold in the last 2 years. Netflix recently announced a new plan: For $7.99 a month, subscribers can watch unlimited streaming content over their computers and TVs. Some of the pundits in Hollywood worry that Netflix, with its clout growing daily, will soon be powerful enough to dictate terms and pricing to the studios.
Movie studios are certainly mindful of the predicament of their sister industry, the record business. Thanks to the Web, its old business model was completely shredded and rewritten. Much to the dismay of the old labels, Apple is now Numero Uno in the music biz. Along the same lines, Netflix, perhaps unlike some movie studios, now realizes that the future of the movie biz lies in streaming and is rapidly transforming itself into a streaming juggernaut. (It accounts for one-fifth of U.S. Web traffic during peak hours.) And whenever there’s a tectonic quake, like going from discs to streaming, the power structure gets shaken up. Understandably, some in the Hollywood establishment see Netflix as a mortal threat.