On Tuesday, Roma, an autobiographical drama from acclaimed director Alfonso Cuarón, earned a best picture nomination for the upcoming Academy Awards. That accolade marks a first for Netflix, which has received 15 nominations from the Academy since 2014 and two wins so far, though Roma is the first best picture nomination it's received. In total, Roma racked up 10 nominations in various categories.
In addition to its Netflix distribution, Roma was shown on a limited number of big screens: In a recent earnings report, the streaming giant said that the film had been shown on 900 "unique screens" throughout the world. But the nomination is also unprecedented for the Academy: Roma is the first best picture nominee to not have box office numbers associated with the title.
Netflix typically doesn't report viewership numbers for its popular titles, though in a letter to investors last week, it pulled back the curtain a bit on how many households had seen certain popular titles including Bird Box, a thriller starring Sandra Bullock, which was seen in 80 million households within four weeks of its release.
Netflix didn't share how many households had seen Roma, nor its theatrical ticket sales, but audience numbers might not matter much, according to Allen Adamson, professor at NYU's Stern school of business and founder of brand strategy firm Metaforce.
"They're taking a page out of the HBO playbook from years ago that awards matter. It's a top- down market, and the Oscars and Golden Globes create an aura of creative excellence that trickles down," Adamson said. "This is a really smart long-term play for Netflix."
Hollywood awards aren't just a draw for consumers. Netflix's content chief, Ted Sarandos, hinted to investors in an earnings interview last week that its Hollywood ambitions are equally a draw for content creators.
"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," Sarandos said, speaking of Roma's theatrical ambitions. "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."
With a host of well-heeled rivals with eyes on the streaming video market, from Amazon (AMZN) - Get Report and Apple (AAPL) - Get Report to Disney (DIS) - Get Report and AT&T's (T) - Get Report Time Warner, awards could also mean a competitive edge in securing high-quality content.
"Everybody has money now, so money alone isn't enough to attract talent," Adamson added. "You need that red carpet -- no one in Hollywood wants to admit it, but the red carpet matters, whether you're a producer, a writer or a costume designer."
Netflix shares closed down 4.11% at $325.16.