Netflix and the Chocolate Factory: Streamer buys rights to Dahl’s works

October 7, 2021

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Netflix has acquired the rights to all of Roald Dahl’s works in a deal reportedly worth more than £500m.

What does this mean?

The deal, struck with the author’s family, is the largest in Netflix’s history, as it looks to expand the library it offers to its 209m subscribers. As the market leader in video streaming, Netflix is looking to solidify its position and fend off advances from the likes of Amazon Prime and Disney+, as well as numerous others, particularly in its home US market, where it has become standard for cable networks to launch their own platforms.

This is not the first time the rights to these works have been bought; deals have previously been struck with, for example, Penguin Random House. These rights will not be affected by the new deal. Netflix’s rights will instead be “underlying”, meaning any rights not expressly affected by other arrangements will belong to the streaming platform. They will also be given a share of revenue in certain cases where rights are owned by other parties.

What's the big picture effect?

Netflix had previously struck a much more limited deal with the author’s estate, which is controlled by his family and former employees, to develop an animated Charlie and the Chocolate Festival series, alongside other projects. According to a statement from Netflix, “these projects opened our eyes to a much more ambitious venture,” namely “a unique universe across animated and live action films and TV, publishing, games, immersive experiences, live theatre, consumer products and more.”

The video streaming market has become the dominant force in film and television over the last decade and the enforced solitude of the pandemic only intensified its power. Disney+ launched in 2019 with the aim of gaining 90m subscribers by the end of 2024. However, the pandemic forced people globally to remain at home. This, combined with the launch of flagship series such as The Mandalorian and those based in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, allowed the service to hit 106m subscribers by July this year. Amazon Prime has seen similar growth, helped by the added advantage of being able to offer extra benefits to subscription, such as free next day delivery.

As the market, previously dominated by Netflix, becomes more competitive, there has been a rush to buy up existing content and to create more. Disney’s massive back catalogue of film and TV, as well as the content provided by its purchases of the likes of Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios, allowed it to jumpstart its platform with existing franchises. Meanwhile, Netflix has seen success from its original content, with productions like The Queen’s Gambit and The Trial of the Seven recently garnering critical praise and awards.

Without a doubt the streaming war has initiated an arms race in which the major players scramble to buy up content and produce their own. Netflix may have made the biggest move to date, but the others are unlikely to take it lying down.

Report written by Joshua White

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