Netflix just bought a golden ticket. The streaming giant has acquired the Roald Dahl Story Company.
Netflix says they have multiple Dahl projects in the works, including a series based on the world of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” from Taika Waititi and Phil Johnston. Netflix is also working with Sony and Working Title on an adaptation of “Matilda: The Musical.”
It’s expected Netflix may spend $1 billion on upcoming Dahl productions. This means we’re likely going to see more Netflix titles about The BFG, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Willy Wonka, and The Twits. Variety reports Netflix will expand on current plans for 19 Dahl TV shows, films, stage shows, and live experiences.
It is exceedingly rare for Netflix to make an outright acquisition, but the company may have felt the squeeze from the wild spending sprees of its competitors. This could be a one-off purchase or the start of an arms race for the remaining intellectual property that isn’t already owned by a major streaming company.
In hindsight, Netflix may have started down this path after its fans got burned with the debacle over “Daredevil.” The much-loved superhero series debuted in 2015 to popular and critical acclaim. But fans (and the cast) were stunned when the series was canceled abruptly after just three seasons.
Man, so weird to be in the Daredevil writers room today, getting the news that we’re cancelled. On the walls were an entire season 4 laid out - and it was so f***g cool. So many moments we wanted the fans to see… Sigh, this business.— Sam Ernst (@havensam) November 30, 2018
I’m so sad that we won’t be continuing this story. Mostly I’ll miss seeing the friends I’ve made everyday. Thank you to every person who contributed to this series over the years. And to @erikoleson because of you we are going out on a high. @Daredevil #Daredevil pic.twitter.com/aVmXu1UwFu— Deborah Ann Woll (@DeborahAnnWoll) November 30, 2018
You’ll note that the “Daredevil” team got the news on November 30, 2018. Disney+ would launch on November 12, 2019.
Clearly, Netflix saw the approaching Disney+ and its pullback of Marvel properties coming. As long as Netflix relied on licensed characters that could be taken away, the service was always going to be at risk of having to abandon a project down the road. Acquisition is a far more expensive strategy, but it protects Netflix for the long haul. And the streaming pioneer has no plans of disappearing anytime soon with innovations in VR, gaming, and interactive content already in the works.
Dahl’s stories haven’t always been surefire hits. Even Steven Spielberg misfired with “The BFG,”which earned $195 million on a budget of $140 million. But based on Netflix’s existing three-year deal, the company must have seen enough value to merit the full purchase.
Netflix has more than 209 million subscribers in 190 countries.