Netflix Becomes First Streamer to Join the Motion Picture Association of America

Dominique Charriau/Getty Images; Marcus Ingram/Getty Images
Netflix's Reed Hastings (left), MPAA's Charles Rivkin

It's the first time a non-Hollywood studio has been welcomed into the fold of the movie industry's top trade group.

Netflix has joined the membership ranks of the Motion Picture Association of America alongside the six major Hollywood studios, the top lobbying group said Tuesday,

The unprecedented move — coming on the same day that the streamer landed its first Oscar nomination for best picture — was endorsed by Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. It is the first time in history that a non-studio has been granted entry. It also is a defining moment for MPAA chairman-CEO Charles Rivkin 18 months into his tenure.

“On behalf of the MPAA and its member companies, I am delighted to welcome Netflix as a partner,” Rivkin said in a statement. “All of our members are committed to pushing the film and television industry forward, in both how we tell stories and how we reach audiences. Adding Netflix will allow us to even more effectively advocate for the global community of creative storytellers, and I look forward to seeing what we can all achieve together.”

Added Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos: "Joining the Motion Picture Association further exemplifies our commitment to ensuring the vibrancy of these creative industries and the many talented people who work in them all over the world. We look forward to supporting the association team and their important efforts.”

The Netflix-MPAA union coincides with the streamer becoming a card-carrying member of the Oscar race after securing an unprecedented 15 nominations on Tuesday morning. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and Sarandos are intent on upping the company's profile as a legitimate force in the movie business, and joining the MPAA will further that goal.

Additionally, once Fox is merged with Disney, the MPAA will have one less member, meaning a loss of as much as $10 million to $12 million in annual dues. Sources say the MPAA is courting other new members as well (Amazon could be a candidate).

Netflix and the MPAA have been in ongoing discussions, according to insiders. The two aren't strangers, and have worked together on copyright protection, a priority for Rivkin and his studio bosses and Hastings. Trade is another issue uniting the studios and the streamer, as well as production tax incentives.

Netflix's focus on anti-piracy has begun to match that of the big studios, with the burgeoning popularity of set-top boxes pre-loaded with customized open-source software that can be used to access pirated content. Netflix and Amazon have joined the studios in filing copyright lawsuits and, along with MPAA members, are part of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment.

However, Netflix's seat at the MPAA table could irk theater owners, many of whom won't carry the streamer's original films since it doesn't abide by theatrical windows. The MPAA has stayed out of the windows debate, however.

The MPAA and the National Association of Theatre Owners administer the ratings system together.

Jan. 22, 2:25 p.m. Updated with the MPAA announcement.