James Bond Is Being Recruited for the Streaming Wars

Apple and Netflix are reportedly in talks to buy MGM, which means 007 is likely to become a pawn in the battle for streaming supremacy.
James Bond Casino Royale
By  · Published on February 7th, 2020

Disney’s 2019 acquisition of 20th Century Fox appears to have started a trend. As the streaming wars heat up, Apple and Netflix are reportedly competing to amalgamate Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer into their respective media empires. Assuming either party is successful, they will obtain a rich film and television library that includes notable franchises such as Rocky, RoboCop, and — the golden goose — James Bond.

If this happens, the way in which future installments of these franchises are released could drastically change. It’s entirely possible that they will skip theaters and go straight to a streaming service. That’s an upsetting notion in many ways, especially for the Bond franchise, which is one of the longest-running in cinema history. It would just be weird if 007 films stopped being theatrical events.

Still, whichever entity acquires MGM will essentially have access to the future of the franchise, as well as a catalog of old favorites to boost their streaming platform. Nostalgic content is among some of the highest viewed on services like Netflix, so being able to host Bond — as well as every title in MGM’s historic library — will give the winning bidder an edge in the future streaming climate. From a business standpoint, it’s a wise move.

The thought of James Bond moving away from the big screen is unappealing, but it’s not an unsubstantiated idea. Last month, long-term Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson said they’re open to a future where these movies premiere on a streaming platform. Broccoli and Wilson’s revelation, coupled with this latest development, suggests that day is on the horizon.

“We like to think that they’re going to be seen primarily on the big screen. But having said that, we have to look to the future. Our fans are the ones who dictate how they want to consume their entertainment. I don’t think we can rule anything out, because it’s the audience that will make those decisions. Not us.”

The last two Bond movies made $1.9 billion between them, and the upcoming No Time to Die will probably earn a healthy profit as well. There’s clearly an appetite for new 007 adventures on the big screen for now, and any business entity would be foolish not to take advantage of that. However, there’s no denying the allure of streaming, and the way in which people consume entertainment is currently in a state of transition because of it.

Of course, there’s no reason why Bond movies must forgo the theatrical experience entirely. Even if a streamer has more decision-making powers over the franchise down the line. Netflix is becoming more open to putting their movies in cinemas for a select time period before they drop them on the streaming platform. Doing this with James Bond and other big franchise releases is a sure-fire way to have the best of both worlds.

Furthermore, some streaming-only content could be beneficial to this franchise. For decades, there have been plans to create spinoff movies that never materialized, which is a shame given that some of them could have been interesting and told some diverse stories. In recent months, Lashana Lynch and Naomie Harris‘ characters have been discussed as possible candidates for their own projects, and a streaming service is an ideal way to accommodate them.

Creating spinoffs gives Bond fans more reasons to subscribe to the winning streamer, especially if the theatrical release format remains intact for the next few years. Furthermore, it’s a fun and prosperous way to expand the franchise and maximize its content potential, much like Disney+ is doing with its Star Wars and Marvel spinoffs. More risks can be taken. Not every M16 story needs to involve Bond after all.

Of course, this is a double-edged sword at the end of the day. Maybe we’ll get some great content out of the new ownership, but MGM being taken over by any media empire is another unfortunate example of the monopolization of the entertainment industry. That’s not a good thing at all, but it’s becoming more of a reality by the day.

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Kieran is a Contributor to the website you're currently reading. He also loves the movie Varsity Blues.