Netflix signs Sony Pictures to a multi-year exclusive first pay window

Netflix has recorded a significant slowdown in subscriber growth, adding four million new subscribers in the first quarter, which is two million fewer than its original forecast and only half of the eight million it added at the end of 2020. Moreover, for the current quarter, the streaming service expects to add just one million subscribers. No one expected the pandemic-related entertainment boom to go on indefinitely, but Netflix continues to plan out its content strategy for the long-term. The newest deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) could give Netflix a big leg up, especially among Spider-Man fans.

The multi-year deal with SPE grants Netflix exclusive first-pay window rights (which typically happens 18 months after a film hits theaters) in the US for Sony’s theatrical releases beginning with their 2022 slate. Movies such as Morbius, Uncharted (based on the hit Naughty Dog game franchise), Bullet Train, and the sequel to the Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse will all arrive on Netflix before other services.

Importantly, part of the deal also involved Sony agreeing to a first-look deal with Netflix, which goes into effect immediately and is worldwide, not just US. Any films that Sony considers making for streaming platforms or decides later to license could further pad Netflix’s content portfolio. Netflix stressed that the deal “establishes a new source of first run films for Netflix movie lovers worldwide.”

Sony’s slate is likely to be a boon to Netflix subscriber growth, but the greatest impact could come from its Spider-Man films, which are hugely popular and profitable for Sony. Far From Home was SPE’s most profitable in 2019, bringing in $339M in net profit. With upcoming entries in Spider-Man, Spider-Verse, and Spidey-adjacent Venom all in the pipeline, this is great news for Netflix. It also gives Netflix a way to continue accessing the superhero genre when Disney+ owns Marvel and HBO Max has control over the DC Universe.

According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, Spider-Man fans are far more likely to subscribe to Netflix than the other streaming platforms, with 63% of fans choosing Netflix compared to 36% who subscribe to Disney+, for example. Streaming competition has never been fiercer, but Netflix’s web just got a lot bigger.