Amazon might be in the midst of planning an ad-supported streaming TV and music video service, the Wall Street Journal reported today, citing sources close to the company. Amazon isn’t talking, but if true it would be a departure from the site’s Amazon Prime subscription service for a more YouTube- and Hulu-esque model. The e-retailer spent $1 billion on content — acquired and original — last year, according to Cantor Fitzgerald as quoted by WSJ. That has included Amazon Studios‘ original series initiative, under which the service commissions pilots, made available on the Amazon Prime service for feedback from users that is taken into consideration in Amazon Studio’s series pickup decisions. Of Amazon Prime’s first two original series, comedies Alpha House and Betas, Alpha House has been renewed for a second season. Betas has not been looking good for a renewal, but we have learned that Amazon has been in talks with the show’s producers about possibly continuing the show on the proposed new free streaming service. Sources cautioned that there is no deal, with a decision whether to go with the plan or not hinging on analyzing of the economics that is being done right now. Amazon already is expected to announce its set-top box next week to rival Apple TV and Chromecast, according to our sister site BGR, so more clarity might …
‘Alpha House’ Creator Garry Trudeau On Creating “HBO-Quality” TV On Amazon; ‘Betas’ Panel Stresses Character Over Cliche
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.”
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.
Amazon Studios this morning officially ordered its first original series, giving series pickups to comedy pilots Alpha House starring John Goodman and Betas, which received the call 10 days ago, and kids pilots Annebots, Creative Galaxy and Tumbleaf. The five series will air exclusively on Prime Instant Video later this year and in early 2014. The shows came out of Amazon’s inaugural slate of 14 pilots — eight comedies and six kids shows — that were made available online on April 19.
The series pickup decisions were based in part on feedback from viewers in the U.S. and the UK. “We are thrilled at the enthusiastic customer response to our first original pilots,” said Amazon Studios director Roy Price, indicating that the company will continue to make its pilots available to the public. “We built Amazon Studios so that customers could help decide which stories would make the very best movies and TV shows. It’s exciting to see the process in motion, doing exactly what we set out to do. The success of this first set of pilots has given us the push to try this approach with even more shows — this is just the beginning.”
As it just did with Zombieland, Amazon Studios acknowledged the existence of its comedy pilot Betas after the project was cast and well into production. Set in the land of Silicon Valley start-ups where the right algorithm can make you king, Betas, written by Evan Endicott and Josh Stoddard, follows four computer geeks and their quest for nerd fame as they attempt to crack the ultimate code. Ed Begley Jr, Jon Daly, Joe Dinicol, Margo Harshman, Charlie Saxton and Karan Soni star in the pilot, written by Michael Lehmann (Heathers) who will direct and produce with Alan Freedland & Alan Cohen and Michael London. Betas, the eighth comedy pilot added to Amazon’s roster, will be made available — along with the other seven comedy pilots and six children’s pilots — for free on Amazon Instant Video and Lovefilm UK/Germany.
Joe Dinicol, Margo Harshman (Bent), Charlie Saxton (Bandslam) and Karan Soni (Safety Not Guaranteed) have been cast in Amazon Studios‘ comedy pilot Betas, produced by Michael London. Written by Evan Endicott and Josh Stoddard and directed by Michael Lehman, Betas is set in the world of Silicon Valley start-ups and centers on a quartet of under-socialized computer geeks who have designed a killer app that could transform the social lives of about 6 billion people for the better. Now all they have to do is get over their crippling personality flaws and sell their product. Dinicol plays the frontman of the quartet Trey, an aspiring dot-com maverick. Saxton, repped by CAA and Station 3, and Soni, repped by The Michael Zanuck Agency, 3 Arts and attorney Lev Ginsburg, play two other members of the quartet, junior coder Mitchell and the group’s tech brains Nash, respectively. Harshman, repped by APA and New Wave, plays the female lead Lisa Rudolph, a young, attractive, investment firm workaholic who realizes the app’s potential. She recurs on The Big Bang Theory. Alan R. Cohen and Alan Freedland serve as showrunners.
EXCLUSIVE: Amazon Studios continues to ramp up its original slate. I hear the original movie and series production arm of Amazon.com is finalizing a deal for a pilot order to comedy Betas, produced by feature producer Michael London (Sideways) via Groundswell Prods. The company also has been hammering out a license fee deal with Sony Pictures TV for Zombieland, a comedy pilot based on the 2009 movie, which is already actively casting. They would join the six comedy pilots Amazon Studios announced in December, which are in various stages of production and have attracted talent of the caliber of John Goodman and Bebe Neuwirth. The company yesterday gave the green light for five children’s pilots.