Back in June, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said that he wanted to focus a large portion of the company's efforts into further developing Amazon Prime, Studios (its original film department) and original series. It was a sentiment echoed during Amazon's panel at the Television Critics Award conference in Los Angeles on Sunday where Studios head Roy Price said the company wanted to double the amount of content they were already producing.
"Spending was more than double in 2015 than what we spent in 2014 on original programming," Price said. "It's definitely on an upward trajectory and is going faster than we imagined. Same with Prime. Prime is up 51 percent globally and a lot of that has to do with the original series we're offering."
When asked what Bezos' vision is for the future of original programming on Amazon, Price said he couldn't give too much away, but said the plan essentially resulted in bringing in as many series as possible to entice both new and old subscribers without sacrificing quality.
"More movies, more shows, more kids programs, more and more and more," Price said. "This year is already up considerably in original series than it was last year. We're also going to have more international content for our global audience. We have 11 original series in Japan, we're developing in India for the first time and we're shooting multiple things in Germany.
"Our commitment to being the go-to streaming service is constantly growing."
One of the processes Amazon is playing with is how they decide which shows to greenlight and which shows to pass on. Up until now, Amazon has relied on streaming the pilots for shows the company was interested in pursuing and allowing Prime members to watch and vote on them. The series that garnered the most votes tended to be the shows that Amazon pursued, but Price said that could be changing soon.
Price pointed out that one of the pilots that received the lowest number of votes when it was first released was the Golden Globe, Emmy and Peabody Award-winning series, Transparent. Despite the low number of votes in favor of the show, Price and his team decided to pursue development on the series, and since then, it has become one of the platform's most popular.
"I think it's important to look at it from both points of view," Price said when talking about Amazon's decision versus audience selection. "That's only looking at it through one dimension and we have a lot of information, so we can look at audience feedback, ratings online and even what critics are saying to make that decision."
Price said that at the end of the day, data on specific shows was important, but it wasn't as important as a series' potential for critical acclaim. A prime example, Price said, was the upcoming Woody Allen-starring limited series the platform secured without giving audiences a chance to vote on the pilot. Price said that it was far more important to the company to secure top talent within the industry than worry about potential ratings.
"More movies, more shows, more kids programs, more and more and more"
"What the great shows and game changers have in common is a passionate and visionary creator," Price said. "You can't get lost in the weeds and focus on the metadata when you have creators like Woody Allen that want to make a show."
Price said that television has reached an era where visionary creators would rather work with streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu because of the creative freedom and the lack of attention on ratings. Much like Netflix, Amazon executives don't tell showrunners how many people are watching their shows. Instead, the only feedback creators get is a level of how popular their shows are on the platform.
Price added that the other enticing aspect Amazon can give showrunners is a huge budget. Grand Tour, the newest show from former Top Gear hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, netted a $250 million deal with Amazon's promise that it would give the trio whatever they needed financially. When asked by Polygon if Amazon was going to pursue other big budget series and visionaries, Price said it was an avenue the company was looking into.
"We know what our audience wants and we're in a position to give them that as Prime memberships increase," Price said. "People are excited about our pilots and they're excited about our series. We want to keep that excitement there."