When Scarlett Johansson sued The Walt Disney Company for giving Black Widow a day-and-date release on Disney+, which weakened the Marvel star’s back-end deal on theatrical profits, it became one of those hotly watched showdowns in the entertainment industry. Regardless of the outcome, the lawsuit has already become a sticking point in negotiations as studios navigate the tricky waters of streaming releases that upend distribution models and directly impact how much talent will get paid. (Warner Bros. decision to put its entire 2021 film slate on HBO Max has already cost the studio its relationship with Christopher Nolan.)
Despite not having a dog in this particular, specific fight, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos couldn’t help but chime in on the Black Widow lawsuit during Tuesday’s Code Conference in Beverly Hills, and he not so subtly let filmmakers and actors know which streaming service has their back. Via Deadline:
At one point, pressed by Swisher, Sarandos ventured a glimpse of his take on the big-bucks legal battle between Disney and Black Widow’s Scarlett Johansson over hybrid release windows and profit participation. “I watch these things as a spectator — I would have said this or said that,” he admitted. “I’m fortunate that we have not been in those shoes.”
Throwing out another bit of red meat for the business and tech crowd in the ballroom and watching online, Sarandos added: “Talent has to be respected and compensated.”
As studios struggle with shrinking theatrical windows and attempt to launch their own in-house streaming services with varying levels of success, Netflix has been poaching top talent like Johansson’s Marvel cohorts, the Russo Brothers, who launched the successful Extraction franchise with Thor star Chris Hemsworth.
As for Netflix’s strategy, it seems pretty simple, and Sarandos isn’t exactly being shy about it: Show them the money.