Amazon, Netflix Moving in Opposite Directions on Original Content

Amazon Prime Video and Netflix may be ensnarled in a content spending arms race, but Amazon (which is spending $6 billion on content in 2018) is taking a different approach than the SVOD pioneer (and chief rival) when it comes to greenlighting original programming.

While Netflix will spend upwards of $8 billion on original content this year – with an emphasis on diversity as well as pushing the envelope creatively – Amazon Studios is taking a more measured route, according to Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter.

Amazon Studios in April quietly ended the practice of soliciting scripts and concept submissions from the public – an innovative strategy it pioneered in 2010 offering up to $2.7 million to filmmakers and screenwriters (without industry representation) whose material was approved for pilot consideration.

The studio – under new boss Jennifer Salke – is reportedly eyeing content for the young adult genre, in addition to programming with mainstream global appeal, such as “The Grand Tour,” the 2016 reboot of the BBC’s “Top Gear” reality motor car series featuring the original cast.

It greenlighted “Utopia,” a series from Gone Girl novelist/screenwriter Gillian Flynn about a group of young social media-savvy adults being chased by a “deep-state” organization.

“We are huge fans of Gillian’s electrifying work,” Nick Hall, head of alternative series for Amazon Studios, said in a statement earlier this year. “She crafts stories that hold her audience in a constant state of suspense and subverts the expectations behind her characters. She will deliver Prime Video members a series they won’t forget, and ‘Utopia’s’ relevance is sure to connect with viewers around the globe.”

Amazon also inked rights to a new series based on the Lord of the Rings from “This is Us” director Dan Fogelman. It also has a first-look deal with Kenneth Lonergan, director of Amazon’s Oscar-winning Manchester by the Sea.

“[We want] big shows that can make the biggest difference around the world,” Amazon founder/CEO Jeff Bezos told Variety.

Indeed, Amazon opted not to greenlight three pilots approved by Prime members, in addition to canceling “One Mississippi” (after two seasons), “I Love Dick” (after one season), and “Jean-Claude Van Johnson” (after one season).

“Going forward we expect fewer new series from Amazon, with more resources deployed towards proven projects and larger scale productions,” Pachter wrote in a July 2 note.

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