Amazon Taking Its Time With Scripted Series

Amazon Studios recently announced the rollout of 10 original pilots to its subscribers in an effort to find its own scripted series hit, à la Netflix’s House of Cards.

The streaming service said viewer feedback would help determine which shows will go into full-season production and roll out to Amazon Prime members. Candidates for full-season rollouts are five adult-targeted shows: a police story (Bosch); an apocalyptic drama (The After); a sports-themed show (The Rebels); a dark comedy (Transparent); and a sex, drugs and classical-music ensemble (Mozart in the Jungle).

This is the second batch of pilots Amazon has prereleased to subscribers. Last summer, it dropped 14 pilots that yielded five series: political comedy Alpha House, with John Goodman; Silicon Valley-themed Betas; and three kids’ series. Amazon has not yet said whether any of those shows will see a sophomore season.

No one knows how many of the 10 new Amazon pilots will actually go into series production.

Already, though, Amazon’s biggest subscription video-on-demand competitors are out of the blocks with new, original scripted series for the year.

Sony Pictures Television-owned Crackle green-lighted new seasons of Cleaners and Chosen to air in 2014, as well as a movie sequel to the 2001 comedy Joe Dirt.

Hulu Plus is slated to premiere Deadbeat, a supernatural-themed co-production with Lionsgate. The $7.99/month subscription service will also return some shows launched in 2013, including The Wrong Mans; the Seth Meyers-produced animated superhero series The Awesomes; Hispanictargeted drama East Los High and Western comedy Quick Draw.

Netflix on Valentine’s Day will launch the second season of Emmy-winning House of Cards and has already green-lighted a third season for the political drama. Netflix also renewed the Golden Globe-nominated Orange Is the New Black and horror-themed series Hemlock Grove for a second season, and picked up Starz’s Marco Polo project, to launch later this year.

Amazon’s decision to let viewers determine its original programming lineup may be a good strategy to build viewer loyalty. But the service’s deliberate pace in rolling out full seasons of shows makes it difficult to keep up with the over-the-top Joneses on the original-programming front.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.