On Christmas Day this year, something magical will happen. While Santa is trying to hoist himself up your chimney and contemplating that diet Mrs. Clause has been threatening for the last twenty years, Spider-Man, Iron Man and friends will appear in your living room at the push of a button.
Yep, Captain America: Civil War is coming to #Netflix this holiday season, and although it's not the first Marvel movie the streaming giant has snapped up, it does represent the first fruits of a major new deal between Netflix and Disney.
Back in May, word hit the internet that Netflix had agreed an exclusive deal for the rights to all #Disney movies — that's #Pixar, #Marvel and #Lucasfilm, which means everything from Star Wars to Doctor Strange to Finding Dory — almost immediately after their Blu-ray releases.
In the case of Civil War, that's a seven month gap between hitting theaters and making itself available for a binge watch — which, even for a generation who wants everything now, is barely any time at all. It wasn't so long ago that a two-year wait for a blockbuster to hit a mainstream TV channel was standard.
We've already seen independent movies like Barry, the biopic which follows a young Barack Obama deal with issues of race during his college years, skipping theaters altogether to go straight to Netflix, where they'll presumably have the chance to reach a much wider audience — all of which raises the question, does Netflix's immense spending power represent progress or a threat to the way we consume movies?
The FOMO Is Real
If you're alarmed by the idea that the next generation might skip the theater altogether, you're probably not alone, but think of it like this — can you imagine staying home while your friends watch Star Wars 8 next year, on the grounds that Netflix will have it a few months later? In that sense, a primal fear of missing out could be the phenomenon that keeps the cinema-going experience alive.
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens didn't become the biggest movie of all-time because everybody in the world saw it once. That eye-watering $2bn was made because a big chunk of the audience made repeat visits to a galaxy far, far away. I know a girl who saw it five times. Is she insane? No comment, but she's not alone. In other words, the Netflix-Disney deal isn't likely to strip away the appeal of seeing a film in its intended surroundings — it's more like the dessert after a satisfying main course.
The exclusivity deal has wider implications, though — if a channel like HBO can no longer secure the rights to the latest Marvel movie, the average subscriber has fewer reasons to keep paying for that service. Less money from subscribers means less money to produce the kind of big-budget TV shows, like Game of Thrones or Westworld, which give channels like HBO a competitive edge against Netflix. Essentially, the element of healthy competition is threatened — but ultimately, if shows like Game of Thrones don't get made, it's not the HBO money men who lose out. It's us.
That might sound a little doom and gloom. For the most part, the fact that Civil War is available to watch this Christmas on a service that costs ten bucks a month is a good thing. More money in the bank for Netflix means more original content like The Crown, the most expensive-ever streaming series, and perhaps the best TV show of 2016.
An increase in quality content can't hurt — but neither can diversity of choice, which is why Netflix's rivals might want to start taking bolder moves to stay in the game.
Does the quick availability of Marvel and Disney movies make you more likely to pay for Netflix? And is the streaming giant killing the game, or merely adding to diversity of choice?