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Top-Rated Amazon Shows Include 'The Grand Tour,' 'The Man in the High Castle'

4 Apr, 2017 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Roy Price, VP, head of content, Amazon Studios

Head of content Roy Price tells MIPTV 2017 the series are 'really bringing customers in'

Amazon is spending billions on original and third-party content to compete against Netflix for global streaming hegemony. “The Grand Tour,” Amazon’s rookie motoring series featuring the original cast of BBC’s “Top Gear,” reportedly cost upwards of $200 million for three seasons.

Speaking at MIPTV 2017 in Cannes, France, Roy Price, head of content at Amazon Studios, said Amazon Prime added 20 million members in 2016 — the service’s largest annual growth.

With Prime Video now available in 240 countries, Price said competitive pressure to offer content that engages viewers and influences Prime subscriptions, underscores multimillion dollar investment in programming like “Grand Tour.” 

“It’s actually efficient and good economics. In the SVOD business, the thing that is going to make the most difference is a show people are talking about. You might bring it up at lunch. It might generate its own publicity. People want to do the free [Prime Video] trial because of this show. And ‘Grand Tour’ brings all of that,” Price said.

He said the show as well as “The Man in the High Castle,” about a fictional 1962 America controlled by Axis powers, generate the most viewers. Amazon, like Netflix, does not release actual viewership data. It also does not disclose Prime membership totals.

“Those shows are really bringing in customers, keeping customers, and that’s a big area of focus,” Price said.

The executive said analyzing viewership is just one measurement of a program’s success. Whether it has the ability to be a game changer and rule breaker are other factors.

“It’s not [just] what people are watching today,” Price said. 

To generate that compelling content requires significant spending (also a guarded secret) to attract what Price says are artists “absolutely” at the top of their game, inspired, in their moment, and empowered to do something new.

“That’s what we focus on,” he said.

To help generate buzz for the third season of “High Tower,” Amazon at SXSW in Austin, Texas, launched “Resistance Radio,” a fictional Internet-based radio station.

“A secret network of DJs broadcast messages of hope to keep the memory of a former America alive,” posted the station’s website.

Price said Prime Video’s global expanse is reaching targeted audiences at the local level.

“We premiered our first original German-language series, ‘You Are Wanted.’ It was the biggest opening for us in Germany,” he said, adding Amazon has programs in development in India, London and Japan, including Hitoshi Matsumoto’s variety series, “Documental.”

Amazon will soon launch “Jack Ryan,” a new action series based on Tom Clancy’s CIA hero and starring John Krasinski (“The Office”).

“A new day has dawned in TV … you’ve got to get people who are going to do things differently and bring something really fresh. We call it ‘film-e-vision,’” Price said.

In addition to seeking out noted filmmakers such as Woody Allen, Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and David O Russell (American Hustle), Amazon is staying true to the theatrical window — unlike Netflix, which seeks to bow movies across all distribution channels simultaneously.

“Customers appreciate seeing a film in a cinema where you get a full theatrical experience. Theaters play an important role in the movie ecosystem, so why not participate in that?” Price said. “When a movie comes onto Prime Video, there’s a perception that it’s a legit movie. It was reviewed. It was in a theater. So, we're very supportive of the theatrical window.”

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