Millions of movie fans will tune in to the Academy Awards Sunday -- and Netflix (NFLX) investors might want to tune in, too.
Netflix's Roma, an autobiographical drama from director Alfonso Cuarón, earned a Best Picture nomination for the upcoming Academy Awards, marking a first for Netflix. The streaming giant has received 15 nominations from the Academy since 2014 and racked up two wins, but hasn't previously been nominated for the high-profile Best Picture category. In total, Roma received 10 nominations, including Best Director and Best Actress, and Netflix has mounted an expensive marketing campaign directed at Oscar voters to support Roma's chances.
Netflix also has two nominees in the short documentary category -- Period. End of Sentence and End Game.
The awards fit into a broader message that Netflix wants to send -- that their content is "part of the zeitgeist," in the words of content chief Ted Sarandos during a recent earnings interview.
In addition to the awards nominations, the company has been gradually revealing more about how many subscribers are watching its most popular films and shows, and about what exactly they're after in doing so -- namely, credibility in the industry.
"It's good for the industry to know, it's good for the creative community to know, it's good for fans to know that we're at a time when we're growing big audience films like that," Ted Sarandos, Netflix's content chief, told investors on its earnings call in January. "So I think it's a very exciting time, and we thought it'd be a good idea to give you some idea of the scale of that and how to put it in context."
As streaming services vie for the best content, accomplishment in the form of big audiences and industry awards -- rather than strictly money -- serve as an important draw for creative talent. Meanwhile, streaming competitor Amazon (AMZN) was nominated in just one category, Best Original Screenplay for romantic comedy The Big Sick.
"I think it's more 'street cred' than anything," said Wedbush's Michael Pachter of the Oscar nominations. "Subscribers likely won't care much, if at all, that Roma wins. Rather, it's a statement to creators that Netflix is a good home for their projects, will support them with heavy marketing, and will position them for recognition. I think Netflix has shown its willingness to support a well-crafted film with an aggressive marketing campaign, and I expect Roma to win."
Netflix shares rose 1.69% on Friday and are up 36% year to date.