The sunny seat of Hollywood is about to get a lot more cloud cover, thanks to Amazon, which just named the head of AWS, its cloud-computing unit, as its next CEO. The move also makes Andy Jassy Hollywood’s newest major media mogul too.
Jassy, who takes over this summer, will head a trillion-dollar company that already has its hands in just about every corner of Hollywood, while extending its reach behind the scenes even further as a key part of the streaming future.
Most prominently, of course, Amazon owns Prime Video, quietly one of the world’s biggest subscription video services, with 75 million households (outside estimates are that about half the 150 million Amazon Prime subscribers watch the included video).
The service offers plenty of originals alongside its licensed content, including top-drawer stuff such as Sound of Metal, The Vast of Night, The Boys, Jack Ryan, I’m Your Woman, Sylvie’s Love, One Night in Miami, Hanna, and Tales from the Loop.
This week, along with getting a new boss, Prime Video picked up 10 Golden Globe nominations, including for Steve McQueen’s sublime Small Axe limited series and Sacha Baron Cohen’s anarchic Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.
Amazon also has Twitch, the live-streaming powerhouse; Channels, which generates billions of dollars re-selling dozens of third-party video services; free, ad-supported IMDb TV; and not least, its Fire TV platform, which recently announced its devices bring streaming video to 50 million U.S. households, barely second to Roku.
With that reach, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has been one of Hollywood’s most important executives, though he has used his programming power in a public way only a couple of times.
Famously, he once stomped into Prime Video’s Los Angeles offices, demanding to know why Amazon didn’t have its own version of HBO’s monstrously successful Game of Thrones.
Back then, Prime Video featured a lot of critical darlings—Joey Soloway’s Transparent is a fine example—that won awards, but seldom the hearts of large audiences. Soon thereafter, Prime Video would commit $250 million for rights to a Lord of the Rings spin-off, with another $250 million in production budget.
Bezos also is the reason that The Expanse got three more seasons on Prime Video after Syfy canceled it. The space opera, built around the novels of James S.A. Corey, explores complicated political and military rivalries spanning the Solar System and first contact with transformative alien technology. The show is, and I write this with love, catnip for geeks.
Now, Jassy will make the call on decisions like those. He’s about to become head of a massive media company that happens to be tucked inside an even more massive e-commerce company, and a cloud-computing organization that generates more money than Oracle or SAP.
But how can you be a mogul without ever, you know, running a media company? We don’t even know what TV shows and movies Jassy likes to watch, if any. What’s his Expanse?
According to Jassy’s Twitter bio, he’s a "big sports/music/film fan," and "an experienced Buffalo wings eater.” That’s a rather populist note for a Scarsdale High grad (his father and father-in-law were both senior partners in white-shoe law firm Dewey Ballantine) with two Harvard degrees.
Jassy likes sports so much he’s a minority investor in the NHL expansion hockey franchise the Seattle Kraken. Good thing he likes sports, too, because everyone expects Amazon to be a major bidder for upcoming NFL broadcast rights, especially after Prime Video streamed Fox’s Thursday night NFL broadcasts again this season.
And a deeper dive suggests Jassy has more Hollywood experience, especially on the distribution side, than you might expect. That’s because, behind the scenes, cloud computing is transforming Hollywood studios so they can succeed in their streaming future.
Cloud computing promises to bring many capabilities that will overhaul Hollywood’s relationships with its content and its consumers, including video and image analysis, machine learning, easier channel launches, and automated workflows. And Hollywood is definitely listening to Amazon Web Services and waiting for Jassy to come calling.
In December, Jassy’s Amazon Web Services announced a huge multi-year deal with ViacomCBS to put 450 of the media giant’s linear services and 40 of its media and data centers around the world on Amazon.
ViacomCBS also plans to use Amazon tech to dynamically inject content into its CBSN 24-hour digital news service.
The day before, AWS announced a similar deal with MGM to migrate that company's vast library for distribution across multiple platforms.
Other AWS media and entertainment customers include Netflix, Fox, Disney, the NFL, Discovery, the BBC, Snapchat, Twitter, Conde’ Nast, and Comcast. Which is to say, most of Hollywood and quite a lot of the social-media world not named Alphabet or Facebook.
So, Jassy isn’t a complete newcomer. In fact, he’s about to be something else for Hollywood: a local.
In December, Jassy and his wife bought a $6.7 million, 5,500-sq.-ft. “starter home” in Santa Monica. The couple isn’t giving up their home in Seattle’s tony Capitol Hill neighborhood, but once again, Jassy will be following in Bezos’ footsteps.
A year ago, Bezos bought the first of three Beverly Hills properties, spending a record $165 million on a famed estate that originally belonged to Jack Warner, one of Hollywood’s first moguls, and most recently was owned by one of the last generation’s biggest media barons, David Geffen.
So the Cloud Guy likes traditions too. Hollywood should approve.
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