In an effort to pivot to blockbuster global hits that will grow its base of Prime subscribers around the world, Amazon Studios is reportedly scrapping the playbook for its original series to create an HBO-style prestige content machine.
Word on the street is that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has tasked Amazon Studios head Roy Price with developing high-end drama series with broad appeal in an effort to broaden Amazon’s international subscriber base and position in the hearts and minds of its domestic fans.
“It comes out of analysis of the data and conversations among the leadership team,” said Price, speaking to Variety. “We’ve been looking at the data for some time, and as a team we’re increasingly focused on the impact of the biggest shows. It’s pretty evident that it takes big shows to move the needle.”
In other words, niche fare and cult hits without big audiences are out for now. As an example, the streamer has cancelled the Christina Ricci vehicle, Z: The Beginning of Everything, which followed the story of Zelda Fitzgerald during the Jazz Age. Despite garnering critical acclaim, “sometimes there are shows that are a little bit on the bubble in terms of their viewership,” Price said.
The new direction can be seen in the upcoming Tong Wars, which Amazon greenlighted last week. Another period drama, it showcases a crime thriller plot against the backdrop of Chinese immigration to the US.
Price cited a few shows that provide a blueprint for what Amazon is trying to do, including Amazon’s own what-if-the-Nazis-won drama Man in the High Castle, American Gods on Starz and Preacher on AMC. And of course, Game of Thrones.
“I do think Game of Thrones is to TV as Jaws and Star Wars were to the movies of the 1970s,” Price said. “It’ll inspire a lot of people. Everybody wants a big hit and certainly that’s the show of the moment in terms of being a model for a hit.”
Not that the studio is opting out of lighter fare: it has also greenlighted a comedy with Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph; two other comedy pilots; and a Seth Rogen-produced comic book adaptation.
Sources also told the Hollywood bible that the pressure is on since Amazon has failed to find a vehicle that catapults it into popular culture since launching Transparent a few years ago. And, apparently Hulu’s success with The Handmaid’s Tale has rankled.
Thus, for the foreseeable future, Amazon will be looking to make a splash.
“[We will find] big shows that can make the biggest difference around the world,” Price said.