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Apple walks away empty handed at the Oscars

Lily Gladstone and Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Killers of the Flower Moon'

Despite 13 Academy Award nominations, Apple TV+ won none at the Oscars ceremony, in a year that saw almost all streamers shut out. Here's why that matters.

It was already clear going in that this was not going to be a year when the Oscars made the best picture be the Best Picture. But as well as "Barbie" being practically ignored, there was only a single award for any streaming service.

Netflix took home an Oscar for "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar," an entry in the Live Action Short Film category. That was the only streaming win in a year that had seen a total of 32 nominations across Netflix, Apple TV+, and more.

Apple had 13 of those nominations, with 10 for "Flowers of the Killer Moon" and the rest for "Napoleon." Of the other streamers, Netflix had led the way with 19 nominations, spread out over 11 films.

Overall, Netflix has a better track record for Oscar wins than any other streamer. In 2023 it took home six awards, for instance, while in 2022 its one win was the major one of best director for Jane Campion.

However, the even more significant award has always been denied Netflix and all streamers — except Apple. In 2022, "CODA" made Apple TV+ the first streaming service to win the best picture Oscar.

Why it's worth winning an Oscar

Traditionally, an Oscar win for best picture has been incredibly important for a movie. For one thing, it will typically get a theater re-release — Apple did that with "Killers of the Flower Moon" just because it was nominated.

Then pretty much forever afterwards, films will do better in sales and on streaming when they have that "best picture" accolade. Over many years, winning an Oscar can make an enormous difference to the profitability of a film.

For a streamer, there are no sales per se, but a prestige title brings viewers to the service. Apple can expect more people to watch "Napoleon" and "Flower Moon," for instance, because the Oscars mean that more people have heard of them.

The Oscars do mean money for filmmakers and streamers. It means enough money that Apple TV+ spent a lot of cash, and had intense global negotiations, in order to secure as much of the worldwide rights to CODA as it could.

But it's getting people to try the service where prestige really wins for the streamers. That's important enough that Apple is reportedly pleased with its major movies, even when they flop at the box office.

The cast of 'CODA' at the Oscars, as posted to Twitter by Tim Cook
The cast of 'CODA' at the Oscars, as posted to Twitter by Tim Cook

Apple's chances in 2024

Nobody expects Apple TV+ spy flop "Argylle" to even get nominated for the Academy Awards next year. But whether Apple pins its hopes on the forthcoming thriller "Wolfs" or the romcom "Project Artemis," it's going to have a tough time getting an Oscar.

For in June 2023, the Academy brought in new rules for the Oscars and specifically the best picture award. They are to do with how long a theatrical release a movie gets, and how widespread that release is in the US.

It's all ostensibly intended to help movie theaters, which is of course a good thing. But where it makes zero difference to most feature films, it makes all the difference to streamers.

They now have to take on the costs of extended and wider theatrical runs. That could mean films attracting fewer people to the streamers since they've seen the movie in theaters.

That point is debatable, as routinely studios have seen their theatrical runs as mere adverts for the digital sales and streaming later. But since the rule so exclusively affects streamers, it's not a stretch to assume that the Oscars specifically want to reduce the chances of one winning again.

Apple was the first streamer to win an Oscar. It may well remain the only one to do so.