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Keeping Netflix out of Oscars may raise antitrust issues, DOJ reportedly warns

Critics say Netflix films should count as "made for TV movies" that contend for Emmy awards, not Oscars.

Netflix film Roma took home three awards at the Oscars this year.
Getty Images

The US Justice Department is concerned that potential rule changes by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may hurt Netflix and other streaming services' eligibility for the Oscars, according to a report from Variety on Tuesday. 

Changing Academy rules to exclude Netflix and others may raise antitrust issues and violate competition law, the agency reportedly warned in a March 21 letter to Academy CEO Dawn Hudson.

"In the event that the Academy -- an association that includes multiple competitors in its membership -- establishes certain eligibility requirements for the Oscars that eliminate competition without procompetitive justification, such conduct may raise antitrust concerns," Makan Delrahim, the chief of the DOJ's antitrust division, reportedly wrote.

The Academy acknowledged receipt of the letter but said little beyond that.

"We've received a letter from the Department of Justice and have responded accordingly," said a spokesperson of the Academy in an email statement. "The Academy's Board of Governors will meet on April 23 for its annual awards rules meeting, where all branches submit possible updates for consideration."

Neither the DOJ nor Netflix immediately responded to requests for comment. 

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Tuesday's report comes after some, including legendary director Steven Spielberg and several theater chains, have said Netflix-distributed films should count as "made for TV movies" that contend for Emmy awards, not Oscars. Critics say the company only puts movies into cinemas as "token" screenings purely to qualify for awards like the Oscars. Netflix won big at the Oscars this year, taking home four awards in total for Roma and a documentary short.  

Stay tuned for whatever comes out of that meeting of Academy leaders this month

First published April 2, 12:59 p.m. PT.
Update 1:21 p.m. PT: Adds statement from an Academy spokesperson.