path to TV success takes cues from old school Hollywood
- 10th January 2015
Price, Director of Amazon Studios, poses during Amazon's
premiere screening of the TV series "Transparent"
at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, California,
September 15, 2014. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian
FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Amazon prides itself on being
a company that breaks the rules, but its recent success
in Hollywood also reflects an embrace of a more traditional,
largest U.S. online retailer, which has spent heavily
on original programming and boosted the marketing
for its shows, is up for two Golden Globe Awards this
Sunday. Its Amazon Studios division, launched in 2010
with scepticism, is now starting to enjoy critical
plan is raising its profile in Hollywood and, critically,
among would-be members of its $99-a-year Prime programme,
which comes with two-day shipping on items sold on
Amazon, streaming video and other perks.
like big studios in Hollywood, Amazon has courted
big-name screenwriters and producers, such as Jill
Soloway, a writer and co-executive producer on HBO's
"Six Feet Under." She also is the creator
of "Transparent", the Golden Globe television
series nominee starring Jeffrey Tambor as a divorced
parent who comes out as transgender to his three adult
Studios, born as a rebel, promised to use its data-mining
skills to birth mini-screen blockbusters, eschewing
the longheld practices of Hollywood creative types.
its shows struggled to find an audience early on.
Few consumers knew the largest U.S. online retailer,
best known for low prices and fast shipping, was in
the TV business unlike Netflix, which promoted its
shows like "House of Cards" heavily.
then, Amazon's marketing budget for original shows
has expanded. In the fourth quarter, Amazon began
promoting two of its original shows - "Transparent"
and "Mozart in the Jungle" - with television
ads and billboards, the more traditional marketing
tools that it previously skipped.
changes do not amount to a wholesale shift in strategy
for a company that relies heavily on mining customer
data to inform its development team of potential television
hits or misses. But they illustrate how Amazon is
refining its approach to original scripted content,
which is increasingly important to attracting new
members to its Prime membership programme.
have gotten better over time about being quick and
responsive and big and having the campaign roll-out
effectively around the world in the UK, U.S. and Germany,
where Prime exists, said Roy Price, head of
the marketing campaigns are far from the full-page
media spreads used by Netflix and Time Warner's HBO
to promote shows, it has bought attention to Amazons
fledgling foray into original content production,
which is shown free to Prime members.
NEW, OLD HOLLYWOOD MODELS
Studios started by focusing on building a software
system where people could submit and share scripts,
which are reviewed by Amazon readers and story analysts.
But after the technology was in place, Amazon began
to court professional writers, producers and directors
to work on original content, Price said, allowing
Amazon to tap new and old models.
a practical matter, setting up the open system required
some engineering and building, so we did that first.
So once we launched that, we sort of set up the professional
aspect as well," Price said.
vast majority of Amazon's television pilots now come
from experienced and well-known names in the industry.
Golden Globe Awards nominations for Transparent
for best TV comedy along with a best actor nod for
Tambor are signs that the model is paying off. Another
new Amazon show, Mozart in the Jungle,
has also garnered strong reviews, landing on the New
York Times list of Best Shows of 2014.
spent an estimated $2 billion on content in 2014 with
about $200 million of that used to develop original
shows, according to Wedbush Securities analysts. Amazon
spent more than $100 million developing original video
content in the third quarter.
Amazon spends more on marketing, investors are concerned
about its lack of profitability and skimpy disclosures
regarding that spending. Analysts say it is unclear
whether and when its efforts in original video content
will bear fruit.
is hoping the investments will help draw and retain
paying subscribers to its Prime programme. Prime members
spend three times more on Amazon.com than other consumers,
and they also spend more on Amazon over time, according
to International Strategy and Investment Group analyst
Trudeau, the creator and executive producer of Alpha
House and Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist
known for his Doonesbury comic strip, said that Amazon
was betting on the long term, financially. "As
a commercial paradigm, it's obviously another world.
Our prospects aren't linked to overnight ratings.
As with everything else, Amazon takes the long view
with programming," he said.