News came yesterday that the rights to two franchises from J. R. R. Tolkien are up for sale in the form of the film and games rights that are expected to go for at least $2 billion. With Netflix looking for top IP, should they be looking at getting the rights? We weigh up the pro and cons.
According to Variety, the rights to both the film rights and gaming rights are up for sale to both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
The television rights are currently with Amazon. Amazon is set to release their first debut series “The Rings of Power” in September.
Netflix has largely stayed away from major acquisitions in this history. Its biggest IP acquisitions thus far have been picking up the Millarworld comic book library and more recently, Roald Dahl’s work.
Since the Variety article, there’s been rampant speculation as to who might and should buy it. Amazon, Disney and Apple are all amongst the most cited but should Netflix try and get it?
Why Netflix Shouldn’t Buy The Lord of the Rings
The Warner Brothers movies would be hard/impossible to top
When the Amazon TV show was first announced, it instantly drew comparisons to the movies directed by Peter Jackson. While the show has somewhat moved away from comparisons, if anyone is to move into the movie world with these franchises, comparisons will be almost impossible.
Of course, we’ve seen reboots of movie franchises in the past but rebooting The Lord of the Rings, in particular, is such a mammoth task. They generated close to $3 billion at the box office and were nominated for 30 Academy Awards. The Return of the King won 11 Oscars alone.
Anything short of perfect would mar the reputation of the film franchise and Netflix as a whole.
Netflix already has major fantasy IP
Netflix has made major investments in fantasy IP over the years with the best still to come.
The Witcher is perhaps the biggest effort to date but Netflix still is working on The Chronicles of Narnia, The Sandman, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and The Kane Chronicles to name but a few.
Not everything has been a home run but there’s still plenty to be worked on. Cursed is perhaps the biggest notable flop in the fantasy space so far for Netflix.
The point being with finite resources and time, would it be better to fill in holes in genres where Netflix is lacking rather than one where Netflix already has recognizable names.
There are better acquisitions (and possibly for better prices)
$2 billion isn’t exactly a small chunk of change. Even if it comes in significantly lower, the outlay is huge.
The Entertainment Strategy Guy wrote a guide to acquisitions for us in 2021 where he argued Netflix should be targeting the likes of Lionsgate (who has a market cap of $3.1B total) because it’d get you a library as well as rights to develop shows and movies in the future.
While we do think Netflix should be making big acquisitions there are likely far better deals out there that deliver more bang for your buck.
Why Netflix Should Buy The Lord of the Rings
Huge fantasy IP that gives Netflix an edge
You’ll notice most of our pros will be just turning the cons on its head. If we flip the first con on its head and assume Netflix smashes it out of the park, it could be the biggest draw for new subscribers.
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are huge global properties. They’re known around the world and in demand just as much today as they were 20 years ago.
As we mentioned above too, Netflix has plenty of fantasy IP but most of those efforts so far have been focused in the TV space. Beyond Bright and a few other efforts in fantasy, Netflix doesn’t yet have a huge fantasy movie in its arsenal. Acquiring Lord of the Rings would certainly change that.
Could be Netflix’s major breakthrough into gaming
It’s still really early days on Netflix’s gaming efforts and while there have been great Lord of the Rings games in the past, this could be Netflix’s major IP really cement itself as a serious player in the gaming world.
There’s more to explore beyond the main stories
One of the main reasons against Netflix getting into the franchise is because you’ll be trying to recreate what many refer to as perfection.
Of course, Amazon opted to tackle other stories beyond the two trilogies already produced. Middle-earth is a rich and vibrant universe with plenty more to explore.
What do you think? Should Netflix look at acquiring The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit rights? Let us know in the comments.