In today's Finshots we see what really happened at the Oscars this week
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Alright, on with the story now.
Wait a minute!
You thought we were going to write about Will Smith slapping Chris Rock during the academy awards ceremony?
No no no… This story is about Apple and how a tech company managed to win the “Best Picture” award for CODA. Now if you haven’t seen the movie yet, we wouldn’t fault you. It’s not a box office success quite yet and it hasn’t made a massive splash outside of select circles. However, it does have a beautiful premise. It’s a story about a child who intends to pursue a career in music while living with her deaf family.
Alright, maybe our description doesn’t do it justice but it did win the award for “Best Motion Picture.” So yeah, it’s a good movie. However, Finshots isn’t Vanity Fair and the writers aren’t film critics. Which means we need to direct our attention to Apple — the company that currently owns all rights to the movie.
So, Apple released this note explaining how elated they were at becoming the first streaming service to be honoured with Best Picture at the Academy Awards. This was unthinkable just a few years ago — for an OTT streaming service to go head-to-head with the bigwigs of Hollywood.
But here we are and it’s extraordinary how quickly Apple has managed to gain ground. However, this wasn’t always the case. The incumbents in the movie-making industry have resisted encroachments from tech companies for a while now. For instance, when Netflix tried to up its game and win an Oscar for itself, film director Steven Spielberg made this disparaging comment. He said and we quote — “Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie. You certainly, if it’s a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar.”
There were also reports indicating that the “Academy” was planning on banning Netflix from competing altogether. Lending further credence to these reports was a letter from the US Justice Department. In 2019, they wrote to the Academy awards explaining how keeping Netflix out of contention would violate anti-competitive rules. They even told them that such an issue would merit an investigation.
Netflix for its part tried to fight the good fight. It complied with the Academy’s rules of screening a movie in theatres before streaming it online. It even made a sizeable donation to the Academy’s museum. However, at the end of it all…they lost to 3-year-old Apple TV+.
So, how did Apple manage to pull this off?
Well, it started in January 2021 — at the Sundance Film Festival. CODA was screened for the first time and several distributors tried to get hold of the movie, with Apple leading the pack. Apparently, they knew right off the bat that this movie held Oscar potential. So they shelled out a whopping $25 million to acquire CODA. For context, it only took about $10 million to make the movie.
And they didn’t stop with the acquisition.
Apple reportedly spent another $20–25 million marketing CODA leading up to the Oscars. They even rented out theatres and screened the movie for free last month. They went all guns blazing, including posting ads on Apple products in select showrooms — regarding CODA’s nomination for the Oscars.
And through it all, they made quite the splash. CODA won the Oscars and Apple is now a bonafide player in the movie-making business.
But that leaves us with one final question. Why would someone do all this to feature in an award ceremony that’s been losing sheen for almost a decade now? In fact, total viewership stood at a mere 15 million recently compared to the 55 million viewers the academy awards brought in during the year 1998. Clearly, the “Oscars” isn’t as relevant as they used to be.
So why go through all this pain?
Well, quite simple really. The Oscars may not be what it once was. But it’s still the most prestigious award in the movie-making business. With this victory, Apple’s streaming platform Apple TV+ is squarely in the spotlight. Every publication you could think of (including Finshots) is raving about this victory. It legitimizes Apple’s streaming initiatives and producers will now look at the company as a serious institution. They will probably want to showcase their movies and TV shows on Apple TV+ and it brings a whole lot of prestige to the fledgling streaming brand.
Bottom line - This Oscar has the potential to hurl Apple TV+ into the big leagues and we'll have to wait and see if Apple capitalizes on this win.