Justice Department warns Academy over potentially excluding Netflix

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The feud between Netflix and the old Hollywood guard who’d like to exclude the streaming service has a new challenger: the Department of Justice. The head of the DOJ’s antitrust division has sent a letter to the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences, which runs the Oscars, warning the organization over potential antitrust violations if it decides to exclude streaming services from future award shows. In the letter obtained by Variety, DOJ antitrust chief Makan Delrahim writes that “in the event that the Academy — an association that includes multiple competitors in its membership — establishes certain eligibility requirements for the Oscars that eliminate competition without procompetitive justification, such conduct may raise antitrust concerns.” Under current Academy rules, a film must screen in Los Angeles theaters for "a qualifying run of at least seven consecutive days, during which period screenings must occur at least three times daily, with at least one screening beginning..

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The feud between Netflix and the old Hollywood guard who’d like to exclude the streaming service has a new challenger: the Department of Justice.

The head of the DOJ’s antitrust division has sent a letter to the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences, which runs the Oscars, warning the organization over potential antitrust violations if it decides to exclude streaming services from future award shows.

In the letter obtained by Variety, DOJ antitrust chief Makan Delrahim writes that “in the event that the Academy — an association that includes multiple competitors in its membership — establishes certain eligibility requirements for the Oscars that eliminate competition without procompetitive justification, such conduct may raise antitrust concerns.”

Under current Academy rules, a film must screen in Los Angeles theaters for "a qualifying run of at least seven consecutive days, during which period screenings must occur at least three times daily, with at least one screening beginning between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. daily."

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These eligibility requirements have come under fire since Netflix and other streaming services started making Oscar-worthy films and distributing them in theaters for just long enough to be eligible for a nomination. Netflix film Roma, which won an Oscar for best director, best foreign language film and best cinematography at the awards show this year, qualified under those rules.

However, the Oscar eligibility issue really came to a head when Hollywood director Steven Spielberg spoke out against streaming services at the award show in an interview last year.

"I don’t believe that films that are just given token qualifications, in a couple of theaters for less than a week, should qualify for the Academy Award nominations," said the filmmaker behind Jaws, E.T., and Jurassic Park. “Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie.”

Television movies cannot qualify for the Oscars, so Spielberg’s essentially saying these movies should be ineligible to receive a nomination.

Netflix has even hit back at critics online in a tweet defending its films’ eligibility rights.

We’ll soon find out if this award show tif will reach the next level of feuding — possible government intervention — when members of the Academy meet on April 23 for its annual awards rules meeting.

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