Amazon wants the ‘next Game of Thrones’ and they have money to get it

SUN VALLEY, ID - JULY 13: Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of Amazon, arrives for the third day of the annual Allen
SUN VALLEY, ID - JULY 13: Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of Amazon, arrives for the third day of the annual Allen /

Amazon Studios is going in a new direction and while there will be rough patches, this bodes well for the future of Amazon Video and delivering original programming to subscribers.

Amazon is going in a different direction. After striking out on some shows in recent months, the e-commerce giant that’s trying to be a streaming player announced intentions to shift their programming focus. The message was clear from Jeff Bezos. He wants Amazon to have a show that captures the world’s attention like Game of Thrones. The report from Variety broke it all down in great detail about why this content shift is taking place, but the bottom line is, Amazon shows just aren’t resonating with the audience and they’re falling behind Netflix, HBO and cable networks like AMC and FX.

The news comes on the heels of the cancellation of The Last Tycoon and the discontinuation of Z: The Beginning of Everything, which had previously been renewed and the writers were diligently working on the new 10-episode season. But nope, that’s all done. It stinks for the people who worked on the show, but it represents a sign that Amazon has finally figured it out. Niche shows from the F. Scott Fitzgerald era is not going to move the TV needle and it’s not going to drive new subscriptions to Amazon Prime.

A shift from the niche programs like that and more programming like Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle that can drive water cooler conversation and most importantly, word of mouth and “buzz” on social media is imperative. That’s why Netflix has been so successful with their model. They generate so much buzz on Twitter and Facebook with their programming that even when people aren’t watching a show, they’re talking about whether they should watch the show.

Amazon is backing Gilmore Girls’ Amy Sherman-Palladino’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, an adaptation of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan from Carlton Cuse, starring John Krasinski. Mad Men’s Matthew Weiner is working on an anthology series The Romanoffs. There’s the Tong Wars, a Fred Armisen and Mya Rudolph comedy in the works and a Seth Rogen adaptation of a comic. Lastly, David O. Russell’s yet-to-be-titled crime series with Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore is the type of heavyweight star power that Amazon desperately needs. This is also taking a page out of Netflix’s playbook. Netflix

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This is also taking a page out of Netflix’s playbook. Netflix chooses to work with content creators and then lets them get to work. That type of freedom generally isn’t allowed in network or cable networks, but it’s worked for Netflix. That’s how they get Orange is the New Black, Master of None, Stranger Things, The Crown and why they’re up for 91 Emmys this year.

While Amazon is trotting out Transparent, Mozart in the Jungle and Catastrophe, great shows to be sure, they’re not popular shows that your parents or your co-workers or your friends are going to be well-versed in.

Ask anyone if they’ve seen Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead or Stranger Things and you’ll get one “yes” after another.

Surely, it’s easier to say you want a show like Game of Thrones. That’s what every studio and network head have been wanting for the last seven years. It’s easier said than done and you need the talented writers and producers to turn that idea into a full-fledged TV show. But I think it can and will happen for Amazon because they have an unlimited budget.

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If Jeff Bezos asks for the next Game of Thrones, then Amazon Studios will be able to throw that cash around to the content creators to make it happen. Netflix is spending north of $6 billion on Original programming and now Apple is making a $1 billion pledge to get their own original programming and Facebook is making their own shows too. The competitive arena will bring about bidding wars for the best shows and Amazon will be able to pay more for just about anything they want. This is a long overdue move for Amazon and with this renewed content shift, I expect Amazon Prime Video will have a spot at the water cooler, but it still won’t come close to the widespread appeal of Game of Thrones or come close to bridging the gap with Netflix.

But that’s okay. HBO and Netflix weren’t built overnight. It’ll still result in a flood of new Prime members who are watching shows and seeing what will be the next big thing. Eventually, Amazon will find their House of Cards, their Sopranos and be a mainstay, and not an afterthought when it comes to homes for prestige TV.