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Amazon Nears Debut of Original TV Shows 66

Posted by timothy
from the so-there's-this-talking-yak-and-his-wacky-coworkers dept.
First time accepted submitter bakerharis writes with an article about Amazon's attempt to break into creating conventional television style episodic shows, but with a different model from the manistream media companies. "Amazon's foray into TV production is unique in the way it saves money. Every spring, traditional TV networks like ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox order dozens of pilots and show them to focus groups. Executives pick just a handful to make into series. Then, they commission 13 episodes of each promising show, with each one potentially costing a few million dollars. Many episodes won't ever air if the first few don't attract big audiences." Amazon, instead, has created 14 pilot shows, and is letting a cross section of customers in the U.S., UK, and Germany react to them to see which shows might be worth making more of.
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Amazon Nears Debut of Original TV Shows

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  • Firefly? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Firefly?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      A single word, uttered in dusty despair, knowing that hopes dashed again are too high a price to pay...

      ...I feel ya, brother brown coat.
       

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I don't care, I'm still free...

        • by Anonymous Coward

          You can't take the sky from me

  • by ArcadeNut (85398) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @04:59PM (#43505911) Homepage

    How is this "but with a different model from the manistream media companies"?

    How is this:

    Amazon, instead, has created 14 pilot shows, and is letting a cross section of customers in the U.S., UK, and Germany react to them to see which shows might be worth making more of.

    different then this:

    Every spring, traditional TV networks like ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox order dozens of pilots and show them to focus groups. Executives pick just a handful to make into series.

    They both make pilots and show them to groups of people who provide feed back, and based on that feedback the people producing the TV shows decide which ones continue.

    So again, how is Amazon doing it differently? Looks exactly the same to me.

    • by BradleyUffner (103496) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @05:06PM (#43505965) Homepage

      Amazon's is on the internet.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      TV networks kill shows when they are failing on their network even when they are successfully sold to other countries. It depends on the show but the earnings from international licensing can be higher than the add revenue nationally.

    • by AK Marc (707885) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @05:46PM (#43506157)

      So again, how is Amazon doing it differently? Looks exactly the same to me.

      It's exactly the same, other than "focus groups" uses tiny groups that are presumed to represent the public at large, and Amazon actually reaches a large percentage of the public at large.

      Also, the networks are not looking for "profitable" but looking to fill a slot. They have set line-ups, and try to get complimentary shows as part of a line-up. That's a concept unknown to an on-demand-only company. So the process may seem similar, but it's as similar in practice as a moped and space shuttle (both vehicles that run off combustion).

      And why something like Firefly was so beloved and still failed. There wasn't a "slot" for it. It wasn't judged off its own merits.

    • by MpVpRb (1423381)

      >>So again, how is Amazon doing it differently? Looks exactly the same to me

      Focus groups are artificial, the internet public is real

      But, the people who use focus groups believe that focus groups represent reality

      This will be a very interesting experiment

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      the focus group is bigger and not composed of people selected on purpose?

    • When the focus group is that big, it means that if a promising show isn't picked up, it will more likely become known to fandom in general, leading to the possibility that large groups will come together to ask that a particular show be made. I could see that making a difference.

  • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @05:00PM (#43505919)

    "... a different model from the manistream media companies."

    They won't play half the episodes out of order on a shifting schedule then refuse to show the rest? That sounds positive.

  • Sure, a non-TV-network producing original television shows for broadcast over the internet is going to have a different model than NBC or ABC do. But it's not like Amazon is the first company to do that. Netflix already produces original TV [wikipedia.org]. I was hoping this article would compare to that, but it doesn't mention it at all. Is Amazon jumping in as a competitor of Netflix with roughly the same model? Or is their approach significantly different?

    • Is Amazon jumping in as a competitor of Netflix

      Amazon has been positioning themselves as a competitor to Netflix for a long time. For example [amazon.com]

      It wouldn't surprise me if Netfilx started selling books soon just to get revenge.

  • so how's it different, other than 14 series and a different way of measuring viewer responses?
    • by PRMan (959735)
      The networks never just run a pilot anymore. They order 13 episodes and if it bombs they just show 5-11 of them and the rest is a waste. Amazon isn't in any hurry, so they just want a pilot episode each which will be voted on, and the winners will get a season made and then they'll see from there.
  • Amazon is testing the market with kidâ(TM)s show and comedies

    The networks have people overloaded on comedies. Kids content isn't exactly lacking either. They need to put out something different if they want any interest.

    • by mitgib (1156957)
      I watched a few of them, one really sucked, but they was no scripted-reality, so that was refreshing.
    • by Jherico (39763)
      There are a bunch of comedies and a bunch of kids shows because Amazon is probably going to start of producing a comedy and a kid's show, because they're both proven genres. Having decided to do so, they produced a bunch of pilots in each genre with the intent of picking one or two of the best results. People keep reacting to these pilots as if they're the first episodes of a set of series Amazon will make, but they're not.

      Also, while the networks are overloaded on comedies, they're sadly lacking in stu

    • by PRMan (959735) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @08:25PM (#43506791)

      Kids content isn't exactly lacking either.

      Really? Find a single scripted show rated less than TV-14 from the networks in prime time. There is NOTHING like the shows that I grew up on (Happy Days, Cosby, Home Improvement, etc...), which were shows the whole family could enjoy together.

      Now, the kids shows are so annoying and poorly-acted that no adult could stand them, and the adult shows are so "gritty" and "dark" and "sexy" that no kids like them. Amazon could make a lot of money by investing in the type of shows that make a ton of money, because apparently the networks are too busy trying to be "edgy" to make a fortune.

      • by Albanach (527650)

        This exactly. For younger kids, older than 1st grade but younger than teen/pre-teen there are almost no dramas. Nothing with actors at all. Take a look at netflix/redbox family selections. There are almost no decent movies aimed at the age group that aren't Disney/Pixar cartoons.

  • by garcia (6573) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @05:14PM (#43506011) Homepage

    So I was bored and decided to watch a few of the pilots. As someone who loved Netflix's House of Cards, I was excited to see what Amazon had in store for us of similar caliber. Well, suffice to say that spreading their dollars across numerous pilots instead of one single show gets you what you expect: utter trash.

    Those Who Can't, a story about three teachers (gym, history, and Spanish) was utterly terrible. They hated a jock in the school who was constantly annoying them and being the stereotypical douchebag. The script was jerky, the acting was bad, and the entire premise was overdone. Not impressive in the least, in fact in many instances it was downright painful.

    Alpha House starts out great with Bill Murray getting arrested and John Goodman watching as he freaks out but it goes downhill from there mostly because Murray is not on the show after that first 45 second cameo. The vulgarity (something I don't mind in the least and use regularly myself) is there for vulgarity's sake, not because it makes sense in the dialogue. The show itself is slow, boring, and pointless. It's like Amazon was trying to make fun of House of Cards on SNL but failing as SNL tends to do so well.

    While I haven't watched all the pilots yet, I really don't think I have much desire to do so. I am still waiting for more House of Cards and certainly more Arrested Development on Netflix but this Amazon shit is just bad. They need to get their shit together and up their game if they think they're going to compete with Netflix's first-run flagship.

    • by lennier1 (264730)

      Gave it a try and already lost interest again before any video even had a chance to start.

      The German page didn't have any content, the US page wanted me to install Microsoft's Silverlight (was kinda surprised to see that this stuff is even still in use) and then ran into a region block.

      Germany will most likely only get some dubbed versions with the usual delay (even their streaming services over here usually don't include access to the original audio for US-made content) and after that Silverlight crap I've

    • by Jherico (39763)

      Well, suffice to say that spreading their dollars across numerous pilots instead of one single show gets you what you expect: utter trash.

      You can't compare the budget with House of Cards with the budget spent on these episodes. Amazon didn't make these pilots as an alternative to spending a lot of money on a single show. They did it as a prelude to spending a bunch of money on one or two shows.

      I'm pretty certain Netflix produced a bunch of pilots which were equally as shaky as the Amazon work. The only difference is that those weren't shown to the general public, just focus groups and Netflix execs, and they picked the ones that they tho

    • by tibman (623933)

      Most pilots suck, that's just the way it is. Leave you feedback and watch another : )

    • The Zombieland pilot was mildly amusing. I'll probably watch a couple more to see how it's going to develop.

    • by TWiTfan (2887093)

      The vast majority of pilots are utter crap. That's why they usually don't release them to the public. Very proposed series that produce pilots get greenlit, even fewer last beyond one season, and much rarer than even that is one that's actually any good.

  • Why would i go to the trouble of seeking out the pilots? Pilots are often kind of badly made, and hard to see how you might care about the main characters or subjects going forward.

    I really like the approach Netflix is taking here, in that they are taking a bigger risk but producing a real series. That means more time to think out the characters carefully, to have a story that doesn't evolve on the fly but can be tweaked in an overall package that makes the whole season work before release. It also allo

    • Aha, I missed somehow that it was net network leftovers they were watching but that they were specifically created as pilots for Amazon.

      Still, it seems like it's the exact same approach that traditional networks have used and yielded so little of value. All my other points stand.

      • by TWiTfan (2887093)

        If they're making them for Amazon, chances are they were already turned down by the networks and cable channels. Even "House of Cards" was first pitched to HBO, Showtime, and AMC. If no one else was even willing to produce a pilot, you can bet they're pretty godawful.

        • Even "House of Cards" was first pitched to HBO, Showtime, and AMC. If no one else was even willing to produce a pilot, you can bet they're pretty godawful.

          "House of Cards" was pretty good though, leaving some room for the possibility that grabbing network leftovers may be feasible.

    • by denzacar (181829)

      Netflix in the meanwhile is thinking more in terms of "Fantasy TV" - like "wouldn't it be awesome if we could see any show made by Director X that also has stars Y & Z"? Then they don't even care exactly what show gets made, they just throw the delicious self-aware ingredients together and let it all work.

      You may want to rethink that "Fantasy TV" view.
      Not only is Netflix picking up shows in a traditional way, most of their current and future programming [wikipedia.org] is basically "sold" one way or the other even before the production starts.

      House of Cards - a remake of a successful UK show.
      Hemlock Grove - based on a novel.
      Lilyhammer - made jointly for a Norwegian broadcasting company. I.e. pre-sold to Norwegians.
      Arrested Development - a revival of a popular show.
      Derek - based on an Ricky Gervais old character.
      Turbo: F.A.S

      • But as I said, the story doesn't matter much - just the pairings. House of Cards was more about what David Fincher and Kevin Spacey could do together, as Netflix had viewing data to show that people who watched stuff from the producer also really liked Kevin Spacey movies.

        That's the core, more than the story (though it does not hurt to pick stories they already know are popular).

        But even considering just the story, simply chosing to make great versions of already existing material is still 99.99999% better

        • by denzacar (181829)

          Nothing we are seeing supports that. All of Netflix's shows are totally different from one another, none of them classically formulaic so far.

          That's because you only have a few shows at the moment.
          Let it run for a while and wait for the shows to start getting renewed based on the lowest common denominator.

          As for the "NOT IN TV"... "Two And a Half Men" is the example of that, so is "Sex and the City", so is "Medium", so is "Battlestar Galactica", so is "Justified", "Boardwalk Empire", "Game of Thrones", "Blue Bloods"...
          Star Appeal has been a major TV show ingredient for a while now.

          But as I said, the story doesn't matter much - just the pairings. House of Cards was more about what David Fincher and Kevin Spacey could do together, as Netflix had viewing data to show that people who watched stuff from the producer also really liked Kevin Spacey movies.

          Fincher had planned on doing that show since 2008, and they went w

    • Drop the idea of "TV show". They've been done and you probably do not have any better ideas than the networks have.

      Instead, look at the books you're selling. Create "mini-series" type programming from the literature that is already out there. Focus on story arcs where you can have a beginning and an end.

      The Black Company by Glen Cook.
      Vlad Taltos by Steven Brust.
      A steam-punk version of Doc Savage.
      Perry Rhodan.
      Neal Stephenson either The Baroque Cycle or Cryptonomicon.

      Go big. Bigger than the networks. Bigger t

  • Featuring the Brazilian jungle. Or maybe a strong-woman competition. Just a couple of thoughts.

  • by Vrallis (33290) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @05:52PM (#43506193) Homepage

    I'm guessing Onion News Empire is one of them, just started watching the pilot a few minutes ago. A few recognizable actors (not just a bunch of unknowns), funny so far.

    Hopefully others work out this well too.

  • by antdude (79039)

    They were released yesterday! You're slow, /.! :(

  • I pay for Amazon Prime, all the the pilots are available for me to watch, and I'll bet some of them are great ... but I'll probably never know.

    The steam consistently dies in exactly the same spot a few seconds in. No, not buffering, just dead in the water.

    My browser and flash player are up to date, no other sites have a problem streaming flash video to me. It sounds like a lot of other people are having similar problems, if Amazon's discussion boards are any indication.

    Seriously, Amazon? These kinds of p

  • by Memroid (898199)

    Betas wasn't too horrible. It was a bit cliché, but entertaining and applicable to the entrepreneurial/tech crowd.

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