CANNES – Pillars of Global Support and Local Language Travel Series – This is the content mix that Amazon Studios is excited about as the company looks to build on the momentum behind The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power series.
Jennifer Salk, president of Amazon Studios, discussed the e-commerce giant’s content strategy and investment priorities in her Mipcom keynote on October 18. Salk had intended to travel to Cannes to accept the Variety Vanguard Award, presented by Variety and Mipcom, but on the eve of the travel event she contracted COVID. Instead, Salk recorded a 35-minute live Q&A with Variety’s co-editor, Cynthia Littleton.
Salk has strategized to pursue fantasy films and action games such as “The Boys,” “The Wheel of Time,” “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” and “Jack Reacher” in anticipation of the upcoming “Rings of Power” this year. Amazon Prime Video is committed to five seasons of “Lord of the Rings.”
“These are two areas in which we will invest as global strategies to support content. But we also want to attract local audiences,” Salk said. “People will come for the big global content. But what we don’t want is for the customer to come only to be able to watch one show, and then have nothing else to do. So we want to make sure we really show them a range of content they love.”
Salk cited youth and unwritten programming as another major area of focus, particularly in the US where Amazon has made money with series like “Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrls,” Rihanna Savage X Fenty specials, and YA series “The Summer Is Beautiful.”
But nothing was a bigger priority for Amazon than starting Power Rings aggressively this year. The company has committed to an unprecedented five seasons, or 50 hours of production, for the property. The first eight-episode season ended on October 14. And from Salk’s point of view, the final episodes of the season took the story up a notch, including a mandatory wrap at the end that places exciting bets for season two.
‘clearly revealed [spoiler alert] “It was a great moment for the show and for the fans,” Salk said. “We were excited about this reveal and glad to see all the talk about it,” she said. “The really exciting thing about season two is that you no longer need to set the table, characters, and settings. I really did a lot of the heavy lifting as far as this show (in season 1) lasts. So you have to go deeper into the story. And there are a lot of great dramatic twists and turns.” (Upcoming). It will be a really exciting season and will attract more viewers to the franchise.”
Behind the camera, Salk said “Rings of Power” was an important test of Amazon’s company-wide strength to get behind the series launch. Salk took the reins at Amazon Studios in early 2018, just a few months after the company committed a whopping $250 million for the television rights to JRR Tolkien’s estate. Another $450 million was earmarked for production across the five seasons.
“This started with a big investment and a big idea, which is totally Amazon,” Salk said. “The fact that the company was inclusive and had such a big heartbeat for this. It wasn’t just part of the commerce for the organization. It grew out of love, passion, and a desire to make Prime Video home to this quality and the ability to amplify a story of this magnitude and ambition.”
Salk also touched on how Amazon’s acquisition of MGM will change the landscape for both companies over the coming months. The process of consolidating the $8.5 billion deal is still underway, but it has become clear in recent weeks that Salke will oversee MGM’s operations. MGM will continue to operate independently of Amazon Studios, resulting in third-party buyers as well as offering Amazon Prime Video shows.
“You’ll see a huge commitment to movies, a huge commitment to directing movies in cinemas as well as live streaming, and continuing to expand the talent habitat that we’ve built,” she said. “We’ve already started experimenting with some MGM titles coming to Prime Video with great success. You’ll see more of these experiences…and more investment overall in exciting storytelling tracks.”“Another great global success story for both companies,” Salk said, referring to the song “Samaritan” with Sylvester Stallone.