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TCA: Amazon's Price: 'We're Not Really in the Programming Business'

Related: Complete Coverage of TCA Summer Press Tour

Beverly Hills, Calif. — Amazon Studios chief Roy Price reinforced his view on the SVOD service's unique strategic path, which differs not only from traditional networks but also that of major rivals Netflix and Hulu, during an executive session Monday at TCA summer press tour.

One case in point, which he was asked about, were the negotiations Amazon held about streaming Hannibal, which NBC abandoned earlier this year. Talks largely bogged down on licensing and production issues, but the larger philosophical dilemma is larger for Amazon than for, say, Hulu, which is using a war chest from its three studio owners to fund major output deals for dozens of off-net shows past and present.

“The thing about extending a show,” Price said, “is you’d usually be doing that instead of doing the first season of a new show. And the first show is that the first season of a new show could become a fantastic new signature show for the network. An extended show almost never does.”

Some “solid outcomes” are possible by nursing an established show along to more seasons, but that’s not Amazon’s game, Price said.

"We’re not in the solid outcome business. We’re not really in the programming business," he said, referring to the challenge that linear networks face in filling a full week’s schedule grid according to timeslot. “There used to be a market where, you know that show? The one that would get you from 8:30 to 9? In an on-demand world, that show doesn’t work because people aren’t going to demand it."

The goals of an SVOD service are fundamentally different from anyone measuring viewership and demos only, he argued. "You have to strive for" creators' very best work, he said. "Don’t fail trying to be solid because that’s a super-bummer because you set your sights low and you missed. Bummer."

The Amazon exec’s comments capped a busy half-day of panels for shows such as Transparent, whose second season will bow Dec. 4, and buzzy new drama The Man in the High Castle., which arrives Nov. 20. In addition, the company touted expanded kids’ fare and two new additions, the Bryan Cranston-produced Sneaky Pete and period drama Casanova.

Price also said he had just met with Woody Allen about his upcoming series. Production will begin in December or January, with the aim of having the show premiere in the second half of 2016.

In addition to drawing a clear line of distinction between linear networks and even some other steaming services, Price addressed questions about show ratings. Beyond confirming previously reported insights that Bosch is Amazon’s most-watched show, and that 80% of Transparent viewers had seen at least three episodes, the comments offered no specifics.

Even so, they were revealing in terms of showing direcly what Price & Co. are after.

Based on merchandising and parts of the Amazon world such as IMDB, he noted, “We might have a sense of how an audience will respond to a show. So we can reach out to them.” Beyond Big Data, though, Price added, “The more attention a show gets, the more celebrated it gets, the more people it brings in who aren’t already Amazon customers or Prime subscribers.”

Not all buzz or data trails lead in fruitful directions, however. Price was asked about the meltdown of X-Files creator Cris Carter’s Amazon series The After, which was announced to great fanfare at TCA winter tour but then ditched before ever airing.

“Not everything works out over the course of time,” he shrugged. “It wasn’t the money. It was a tough concept, tough to crack. Who knows? Maybe it will come together one day.”