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IMDb TV's Top Programming Execs, Lauren Anderson and Ryan Pirozzi, on What Comes Next

Amazon's IMDb TV content chiefs, Lauren Anderson and Ryan Pirozzi
Amazon's IMDb TV content chiefs, Lauren Anderson and Ryan Pirozzi (Image credit: Amazon)

After only around 30 months in the streaming video market, Amazon’s IMDb TV appears to have hit its stride.

During Amazon’s NewFront presentation Monday, the tech giant said that IMDb TV viewership has increased by 138% year over year, and that 62% of IMDb TV viewers are age 18-49.  Additionally, IMDb TV viewers spend 5.5 hours per week on average on the free, ad-supported streaming service.

Launched in January 2019 as FreeDive, the Amazon-owned free-to-consumer streaming service was eventually rebranded under Amazon’s Internet Movie Database. Like most AVOD platforms at the time, IMDb TV was a place to watch a smorgasbord of licensed programming—an offering that has evolved over time to include premium offset TV repeats like Desperate Housewives and Mad Men, and movies including Shrek Forever After.

But in February 2020, the IMDb TV content team was moved under the Amazon Studios umbrella, with a mandate of producing high profile original programming. Lauren Anderson and Ryan Pirozzi were named content co-heads and put in charge of the service’s programming including creative development, production, licensing and strategy. Both execs have deep Amazon roots: Anderson was the former head of strategic content for Amazon Studios, while Pirozzi served as head of worldwide television and movie licensing for Prime Video before landing at IMDb TV.

Last year, the platform launched its first original series, Alex Rider. There were also two original docuseries, Top Class: The Life and Times of the Sierra Canyon Trailblazers, which chronicled the life and times of Lebron James’ son Bronny, and his star-studded basketball team at a ritzy suburban Los Angeles high school; and Moment of Truth, which re-examines the 1993 murder of Michael Jordan’s father. Also announced as a new courtroom-themed reality show from “Judge” Judy Sheindlin, a reboot of the aughts-era Dean Devlin TNT caper comedy-drama Leverage, and a spin-off of Amazon Prime Video’s gritty crime drama Bosch, with the title character turning in his badge to do random tasks for super lawyer Honey “Money” Chandler. 

Here’s what Anderson and Pirozzi told us last week:

NEXT TV: What is the difference between an IMDb TV originals and Amazon Prime Video originals?

Lauren Anderson: Being in the market as a streamer creating free premium original series is a differentiator. And it's not just about Prime. It's really about the landscape as a whole and the fact that we're inviting audiences to watch incredible shows for free.

Ryan Pirozzi: IMDb TV is disrupting the whole digital video space by providing premium original content for free from an award-winning studio. That's unique. We also talk a lot about our vision of the modern network, meaning broadly satisfying content that customers may have expected to find on broadcast television or basic cable, but have a hard time finding in the ubiquitous availability and all the convenience of streaming. We're trying to combine those two things and IMDb TV, and so far, it’s working.”

Next: IMDb TV ordered a spinoff of ‘Bosch’ after it was announced last year that the show would end with its seventh season on Prime Video this summer. The cast—Titus Welliver, Mimi Rogers, and Madison Lintz—are reprising their roles in the spinoff, but will the series look different on IMDb TV?

Pirozzi: “We are absolutely going to make it a different show. It truly is a spinoff. It's not season eight of the original series. Bosch is based on the Harry Bosch book series by Michael Connelly, and there's a narrative pivot in the character in Bosch’s life that we are using as an opportunity to spin the show off into something new that will hopefully delight the existing fan base, but also open the aperture and bring more fans to the series.”

Amazon Prime Video series 'Bosch'

'Bosch' star Titus Welliver picked the wrong decade to give up smoking.  (Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Next: Why reboot Leverage—a TNT crime series that ended after five seasons in 2012 —into Leverage: Redemption?

Pirozzi: “It comes down to, ‘Is there a story left?’ Leverage was one of those cases working with Dean Devlin, who was able to bring back so much of the great cast of that show. We think there was good reason to bring it back at this moment.”

Next: How many originals will IMDb TV release during 2021?

Anderson: “Six to 10 more originals will be released throughout the remainder of the year. It’s about a steady drum beat of shows. We want to be a fan-favorite destination service. So much of that is about programming and really great, original series.”

Next: Is there a through line that connects IMDb TV programming original and licensed content?

Anderson: “It’s always about licensing and programming original series that we think are broad, escapist, and engaging. That’s really our focus. And so our original content expands that a little bit because we're able to do new things and we're able to work with creators and storytellers on their ideas from concept to execution. But then the sorts of shows that we look to license are really focused on that as well. We want audiences to come to the service and just be able to dive in. To have a really good time and escape for an hour or 10, ideally and hear and see great stories from incredible storytellers on the scripted side or the unscripted side.”

Next: During the Newfront on Monday ,Amazon reported that 62% of IMDb TV viewers are 18 to 49. Is that the platform’s target audience?

Pirozzi: It’s an important target audience for us absolutely and to our advertising partners. But we are looking to delight as large of a group of viewers as we can. There are Prime members who want more selection and are willing to watch ads to get it, but we are also delighting people and opening the aperture beyond the Prime base into customers that aren’t behind that paywall for one reason or another. So, our team has built an inclusive programming slate for the group we have and the group we are trying to attract. Younger and more diverse audiences are key. That's why you will see this range of content across our licensed and original slate, which is designed to attract a large audience. So, there's not a specific demo. It's really about (attracting) a very large and broad audience.”

Next: The platform will offer plenty of new original nonfiction content in the upcoming months. There is docuseries about country music singer and songwriter Luke Bryan titled ‘Luke Bryan: My Dirt Road Diary.’ There’s also ‘Bug Out,’ a true-crime documentary series about the underworld of exotic bug smugglers and the federal agents who chase them. And then there is the ‘The Untitled Jeff Lewis Project’ about the interior designer’s work and personal life. They all sound very different. Is there a criteria each project must meet to be IMDb TV content?

Anderson: “Great stories and great storytellers. Fun and buoyant content. That doesn’t mean that every single documentary will be fun and buoyant, but certainly that is a piece of what we're doing now. But to be very clear, we also have a part of our strategy that's focused on aspects of stories people haven't heard or seen before. That content includes Moment of Truth and Bug Out.

Next: Will IMDb TV ever feature news and sports?

Pirozzi: It’s certainly something we're looking at. But for Lauren and me, news and sports is not in the immediate horizon, even though our team talks about it all the time. And certainly, basically anything that customers are interested in is on the table. But in the near term, you'll primarily find scripted and unscripted fare on IMDb TV.

Next: Can you quantify the IMDb TV audience?

Pirozzi: We don't release our monthly active users or our total users data. I can say that we are exceeding our goals thus far. I think what's safe to say is that customers are responding.

Next: How do you keep building awareness for the platform?

Anderson: “Our distribution is a big part of it. So, the fact that audiences and customers can find us in more and more places is a huge part of that. Our originals are a big piece too. Being a free service, that's creating, making and distributing premium original series, we hope that that's a big part of what's going to draw attention and engagement. Our licensed content is also another piece of that. We pride ourselves on being a curated service, but a service that has a diverse array of content. So maybe people come in the door through the originals, but then they stay for Lost and Mad Men and Ugly Betty. That’s the way we are framing it and hopefully that really resonates with customers.”