Amazon branches out into original TV programming, viewers decide what shows live on

23 Apr 2013

Still from 'Onion News Empire' via IMDB

The first pilots from Amazon Studios, Amazon’s original film and TV series production arm, went live on Friday and, in their first weekend, became the most-watched shows on Amazon Instant Video. And the more views the better, as feedback from viewers will decide which pilots will become full-fledged series.

On Monday, Amazon revealed that eight out of 10 of the most-streamed episodes on Amazon Instant Video last weekend came from the collection of Amazon Originals released on Friday.

In all there are 14 new shows in the offing: eight adult-oriented comedies and six children’s shows. All pilots are available to watch free of charge via Amazon Instant Video (or LoveFilm in the UK) and thousands have already viewed and reviewed them, with more than 80pc of viewers giving four and five-star ratings.

This makes it difficult for Amazon, as it will decide which programmes to move forward based on viewer feedback. “Just like in Zombieland, where there are no rules, Amazon is throwing out the rules of conventional television and bringing the power to the viewer,” said Rhett Reese, co-creator of Zombieland, a TV show based on the film of the same name.

Amazon Studios has been creating original content for past year and the cream of the crop in this first batch of pilots is likely to be Onion News Empire, a fictional behind-the-scenes look at the satirical Onion News Network, starring Arrested Development’s Jeffrey Tambor.


Other promising pilots include Alpha House starring John Goodman as one of four US senators living together in Washington, DC, Silicon Valley-based Betas, teacher feature Those Who Can’t, and stop-motion animation Dark Minions.

And that’s surely not the last of original content from Amazon – mimicking a strategy that has clearly paid off for Netflix. Amazon Studios has 25 projects in development and being tested with audiences, while series creators are invited to upload proposals for comedy and children’s programming.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.