The original programming arms race continues, as Amazon plans to kick up its spend to compete with the likes of Netflix and other streaming services. Amazon’s spending on programming was double in the second half of 2015, versus the year before, said Roy Price, head of Amazon Studios. “It’s certainly on an upwards trajectory,” he said.
Amazon is spending around $1.7 billion on programming this year, according to RBC Capital Markets. Price would not give a dollar value. Prime memberships was up 47% in the same period, he added.
Price provided some clarity on the fate of shows thought to be on the bubble amidst complaints from critics that Amazon is not more forthcoming with such information. Alpha House and The Interestings, the latter an adaptation of a Meg Wolitzer novel, are not moving forward, he said.
The Whit Stillman drama The Cosmopolitans, he said, is in the script phase and progressing.
While Amazon has traditionally offered up pilots to the public to weigh in on, Price said green lights come from a mix of viewer and critical feedback, and the original executives’ own educated guesses.
“We look at the data at a higher level and say, what are the things lots of the greatest shows, the game changers, have in common?” he said.
A “visionary, passionate creator” may be the most important thing, he said.
New series include the comedies One Mississippi and Fleabag, and the drama Goliath.
The streaming service is getting away from characterizing shows as comedies or dramas, preferring to call them half-hours and hours. “There are lots of stories that are insightful and great and naturally a half hour,” he said, “and others that are insightful and great and naturally an hour.”
Dressed casual in a white t shirt and white jeans, Price took a critic’s question about user tech woes in stride. He said the television is the most important viewer interface for Amazon, and that the tech giant “tries continually to improve the customer experience.”
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.