Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had the 60 Minutes gang agog on Sunday night’s program when he surprise-announced Amazon’s plan to build an army of delivery drones that will drop purchases at your doorstep within 30 minutes. Here’s anchor Charlie Rose and the 60 Minutes production crew peeling back the curtain on their delight at the news of our robot delivery future (AKA “Amazon Prime Air”), which Bezos says is just 4 or 5 years away:
Cable companies are notoriously tin-eared when it comes to dealing with consumers. But Comcast hopes to show that it can win movie-lovers’ hearts and cash by selling electronic versions of films and TV shows — a business that’s now dominated by Apple’s iTunes and Amazon. The cable giant should begin to sell a few hundred movies and TV shows movies and TV shows to its 20M Xfinity digital customers by year end, I’m told. (The industry term for this is Electronic Sell-Through, or EST.) The main selling point is that Comcast subs will be able to buy the content via their set top boxes, and watch on their TV sets, without the need for an additional device to link them to the Web. Adding cable or satellite companies to the retail mix is “really going to open up amazing opportunities,” Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer told analysts last week, teasing Comcast’s expected announcement. Read More »
Amazon Studios tonight introduced its first two original series, comedies Alpha House and Betas, during a TV Academy event at the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre. And the recurring theme was creating quality TV.
Alpha House, about four Republican U.S. senators who share a residence in D.C., is created, written and exec produced by Garry Trudeau of Doonesbury and Tanner ’88 fame. (Cast member Clark Johnson called him “the Aaron Sorkin of the Internet,” adding, “I don’t change a comma.”) Trudeau began by saying he had “several reservations initially” about working with Amazon because “I had not seen great television produced on the web, and I did not see how they were going to be able to kick it up to another level with the kind of resources that had been provided to creators on YouTube and other venues. But as it turned out, that wasn’t the plan — the plan was to provide the kind of support you need to make high-end television. … (The) goal, I believe, was to create HBO-quality television right out of the gate.”
He said he’d read a story about four real congressmen who live together and one said a lot of people mentioned that it would make a great TV series but the problem was “who’s gonna watch a show about four middle-age guys with no sex and violence? So the way we got around that is we added sex and violence.”
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EXCLUSIVE: Amazon Studios continues to attract big names for its pilots. Feature actor Gael García Bernal (Y Tu Mamá También, Amores Perros, Babel) has been tapped for the streaming service’s comedy pilot Mozart In The Jungle, written by Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman and Alex Timbers. Based on the memoir by Blair Tindal, the project is all about sex, drugs and classical music and shows that what happens behind the curtains at the symphony can be just as captivating as what happens onstage. Mexico-born Garcia Bernal, repped by WME, will play Gustavo, an enfant terrible who’s utterly devoted to his art as a conductor — but also to his image.
Will Yun Lee (The Wolverine) is set to co-star opposite Shane Coffey in USA’s drama pilot The Novice, from Fox 21, Joe and Tony Gayton. It centers on Kyle (Coffey), a recent college graduate who is forced to move back home with his parents and soon lands a position with a Korean crime organization. Lee, a second-generation Korean American, will play Big Bang, a thug with a lot of anger issues who is a major player in the Korean syndicate. The actor, repped by APA and Zero Gravity, next stars in director Duane Adler’s Korean film Cobu.
Comedies Alpha House and Betas, coincidentally named after the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, will debut on Amazon on November 15 and November 22, respectively. The first three of each series’ 11 episodes will be available to all Amazon customers for free. After that, one episode of each show will become available weekly on Amazon’s subscription service Prime Instant Video. “We’re constantly experimenting and trying new things—and we’re eager to hear customers’ feedback on this model,” said Roy Price, Director of Amazon Studios. Read More »
Once again, Amazon Studios waited for its pilots to be fully cast before confirming their green light. Bosch, based on Michael Connelly’s best-selling Harry Bosch book series, and Chris Carter’s The After represent the streaming service’s first-ever drama pilots. The completed pilots will join Amazon’s recently ordered comedy pilots, all of which will be made available on Amazon Instant Video for viewer feedback in early 2014. Here are the official details about Bosch and The After: Read More »
Amazon Studios is nothing if not ambitious in its foray into drama. One of its first two drama pilots, Chris Carter’s The After, is a thriller that takes place at the moment of apocalypse. Now the digital studio has put in development Grand Ave, a large-scale period drama set in 1910 Los Angeles. Written by Ian Goldberg (Once Upon A Time) based on a story he penned with producer Jessika Borsiczky (House Of Lies), Grand Ave chronicles the explosive, overnight transformation of L.A. from small town to iconic American city. The show revolves around a powerful, ruthless family and explores — in an upstairs/downstairs fashion — how the destiny of a select few coincided with a major metropolis on the verge of its grand arrival. Goldberg and Borsiczky, who worked together on ABC’s Flash Forward, will executive produce. 20th century Los Angeles is a popular drama setting this development season — the CW has a project about 1930s Hollywood, while ABC and CW dramas explore Malibu in 1976 and 1961, respectively. Goldberg, repped by CAA, New Wave and Loan Dang, also has Mars drama Colony at the CW with Kennedy/Marshall. Borsiczky is with CAA, BEP and Jamie Mandelbaum.
CW Buys 1960s Malibu Surf Drama From Rebecca Sinclair & … Read More »
The e-retailer’s stock is poised to hit a 52-week high tomorrow based on post-market trading +5.2%. Amazon says it had a net loss of $41M in Q3, an 85% improvement from the period last year, on revenues of $17.09B, +23.8%. That number beat analyst forecasts for $16.76B. The net loss of 9 cents a share matches the consensus prediction. Domestic media sales were strong, rising 17.8% to $2.6B, although international was up just 1.6% to $2.4B. Excluding the impact of exchange rates, international media would have been +9%. Electronics and other general merchandise sales grew 33% in North America to $6.7B, and 23.4% abroad to $4.3B. CEO Jeff Bezos touted Amazon’s decision to greenlight pilots for six kids shows, and three half-hour shows. Amazon Prime and LoveFilm customers will be able to watch them and help decide which ones should become full-fledged series. He also said that the company’s new Paperwhite and Kindle Fire models were introduced “to positive reviews” — with response times for the new tablet’s Mayday button, a call for personal help, averaging 11 seconds.
Fargo, Platoon, Annie Hall, Hotel Rwanda, and Hoosiers are among the films from the MGM library that will join the programming lineup for those who pay $79 a year for Amazon Prime (which provides free shipping for merchandise in addition to entertainment content). But the e-retailer seems most excited about Vikings, which airs in the U.S. on History. It’s not a shock to see it on Amazon: The company’s European streaming service, Lovefilm, has had it since May. It’s “a series we know our customers love in both the U.S. and abroad,” says Brad Beale, Director of Digital Video Content Acquisition for Amazon. And MGM is glad to collect the check. “We are always looking for opportunities to bring our content to new audiences in innovative ways, which is exactly what this partnership delivers,” says John Bryan, MGM’s President, Domestic Television Distribution.
EXCLUSIVE: Breaking Bad alum Christopher Cousins has joined sophomore NBC drama Revolution as a recurring. The actor, repped by SDB Talent and manager Lisa DiSante-Frank, will play high-ranking Patriot Victor Doyle, who’s on a collision course with Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito).
French actress Louise Monot and Sam Littlefield have been added to Chris Carter’s Amazon drama pilot The After. Produced by Georgeville TV, it takes place at the moment of apocalypse. In her first US TV role, Monot, repped by Olivia Bell Management in London, Artmedia in Paris and Radius Entertainment in LA, will play Gigi, a woman caught up in the midst of the action. Her feature credits include Michel Hazanavicius’ OSS 117: Lost in Rio, Guillaume Canet’s Little White Lies and German pic Girl On A Bicycle. Littlefield, repped by Bold and attorney Chad Christopher, will play the mysterious Dark Shadow.
EXCLUSIVE: Natalie Zea, coming off roles on Fox’s The Following and CBS’ Under The Dome, has been tapped to star in the Amazon comedy pilot The Outlaws. Written by Jeremy Garelick and Jon Weinbach and directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, The Outlaws is about the ins and outs of a professional football team from the perspective of both the players and the back office. It centers on Julie Levine (Zea), the wife of a pro-football team owner who now needs to run the flailing organization after her husband dies. Zea, repped by UTA, manager Robert Semon and attorney Jamie Feldman, also recurs on FX’s Justified as Timothy Olyphant’s ex-wife. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: With Amazon Studios expanding into drama, the company has tapped former ABC Studios head of drama Morgan Wandell to head Amazon Studios’ drama development. As SVP Drama at ABC Studios, Wandell developed and shepherded such series as Brothers and Sisters, Ugly Betty and Criminal Minds. He segued to running Greg Berlanti’s production company while it was based at ABC Studios. “We are delighted to have Morgan join our growing Amazon Studios team as head of drama development,” said Amazon Studios director Roy Price. Added Wandell, “I am incredibly excited to join Roy and the rest of the team at Amazon. It’s an unbelievable opportunity to help define the future of the television business and create great programming for Amazon’s customers.” Amazon’s first two drama pilots, now casting, are Bosch and Chris Carter’s The After.
Chris Carter’s ‘The After’ Nabs Jamie Kennedy, Adrian Pasdar, Aldis Hodge
Amazon Announces Pickups Of Three Comedy Pilots
EXCLUSIVE: The After, the Amazon Studios pilot, which marks The X Files creator Chris Carter‘s return to series, has started building its cast. I’ve learned that Jamie Kennedy, Heroes alum Adrian Pasdar and Leverage‘s Aldis Hodge are the first actors to join the thriller, written and to be directed by Carter. The After, produced by Georgeville TV, the company of Marc Rosen and Reliance’s Motion Picture Capital, takes place at the moment of apocalypse. Kennedy will play a professional clown, Pasdar will play a successful Beverly Hills businessman, and Hodge will play an escaped convict who proclaims to be an innocent man who was railroaded. Kennedy is with Paradigm and aTa Management. Hodge, repped by Paradigm and The Priluck Co., co-starred in NBC’s pilot The Sixth Gun this past season.
The device, code-named “Cinnamon,” would make it easy for users to stream Amazon Prime videos to their TV sets — and could handle apps and content including music and games from other Web services — the Wall Street Journal says citing “people briefed on the company’s plans.” Indeed, Amazon has given potential allies including cable television programmers a mid-October deadline to come up with apps. The goal is to have it ready to sell for the holidays. So it’s a go? Maybe. Amazon’s box also might be “shelved or delayed due to financial, performance or other considerations,” the paper says. It also doesn’t know how much it will cost and whether Amazon will have a separate remote control, or enable buyers to control if from their tablets and smartphones. Google’s $35 Chromecast streaming media player is Amazon’s top selling electronics device. This week it began to stream Hulu Plus in addition to Netflix and YouTube videos. “Increasing the penetration of streaming video devices with incredibly easy interfaces will reduce time spent with linear, multichannel television,” BTIG’s Richard Greenfield observed this week.
I’ve written about all three pilots, which were quietly picked up over the past couple of months, and Jill Soloway’s Transparent already has been shot, but Amazon is making its announcements on its own timetable and has chosen to unveil its latest three comedy pilot orders now. They include Mozart In The Jungle, written by Roman Coppola (The Darjeeling Limited), Jason Schwartzman (Moonrise Kingdom) and Alex Timbers (Peter and the Starcatcher); The Outlaws, written by Jeremy Garelick (The Break-Up) and Jon Weinbach; and Transparent, written and directed by Soloway (Six Feet Under) and starring Jeffrey Tambor. Like with Amazon’s original batch of pilots, the three will be available to Amazon customers for feedback in early 2014. On the drama side, Amazon has pilots Bosch and Chris Carter’s The After, which also have not been officially announced. Here are descriptions of Amazon’s three comedy pilots: Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Veteran character actor Titus Welliver is getting his due, landing his first series lead role. I’ve learned that the Lost and Sons Of Anarchy alum has been tapped to play the title character in Amazon’s first drama pilot Bosch, a police procedural based on Michael Connelly‘s novels about Harry Bosch (Welliver), a veteran police homicide detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. The pilot was written by Connelly and Treme co-creator Eric Overmyer, who are executive producing with Fabrik’s Henrik Bastin and Mikkel Bondesen. Welliver is currently filming Transformers 4.
Steve Talley (Friend Me, Pretty Little Liars) has been cast opposite Tracy Morgan in the FX comedy pilot Death Pact, directed by Randall Einhorn. From writer-creators Rob Long and Tad Safran and producers Eric and Kim Tannenbaum, Death Pact has Morgan playing a formerly lazy, pot-dealing assistant high school coach who returns to his hometown as a decorated war hero. He runs across three down-on-their-luck friends, one of them played by Talley, and former students and sucks them into his new radical self-help philosophy, which involves harsh consequences for failure. Talley’s Ted Dunbar is a middle-management type at an insurance company, frustrated that he hasn’t had a raise in three years or been able to score a date with a pretty co-worker. He is with Domain, Framework and … Read More »
A month after CBS ordered a second season of breakout summer series Under The Dome, the network has renewed its content licensing agreement with Amazon, which has been streaming the serialized drama from Steven Spielberg and Stephen King. Prime Instant Video will remain the exclusive online subscription home for the second season of Under The Dome, slated to air next summer, with episodes again available four days after their initial broadcast on CBS. Episodes of Under The Dome will also be available for purchase and download exclusively at Amazon Instant Video. “This is the way television should be,” CBS Corp CEO Leslie Moonves said at the time of Under The Dome‘s renewal, touting the blueprint the network established with the series, which could be done on a lower summer license fee thanks to strong international sales and the deal with Amazon. “It’s been a great new model.” Under The Dome is the most-watched series of the summer across broadcast and cable (14.9 million), and the #1 broadcast series in adults 18-49 (3.9/11) and adults 25-54 (5.2/13). On Amazon, the first episode of Under The Dome was the most-watched TV premiere in the history of Prime Instant Video, and the show was the most watched series this summer. “You’ll see every network try to replicate the model,” Moonves recently said. “There’s a huge appetite.” Under The Dome is produced by CBS Television Studios and … Read More »