The Pitfalls Of Amazon Studios’ Animation Strategy

Amazon-Studios

Amazon Studios is the retailer’s original content division that has been covered before here on the blog because it appears to have some merit to it even if it’s far from perfect. Announced just recently is the news that they have officially sanctioned five new animated shows to move forward with the production of pilot episodes. The notable thing about them is that they are all aimed at pre-schoolers; none will appeal to a kid who can appreciate the summer holidays. So what kind of pitfalls can the Amazon Studios animated series’ present for the would-be hit maker? Let’s take a look.

Only One Episode Of Each Is Being Made: The Pilot

It’s tempting to think that Amazon Studios has announced five different series, but they’ve actually only announced five different pilots. That’s a big difference and one that’s clearly aimed at keeping costs down. The downside is that they’re only producing one episode that may not be very good at all. Pilot’s are test beds, proofs of concept and a chance for executives to see how a show might play out for real. Pilots serve a valuable purpose, but here, it’s hard to see why they are treated so heroically.

No details are given as to whether these pilots will even see the light of day as far as the public is concerned. One would hope that they will be given trial runs with mainstream audiences to see how well they resonate with them, but you can never be sure. Plenty of pilots have been buried never to see the light of day. while conversely, they can also be jaw-droppingly awesome and yet still fail to get picked up.

They Picked the Toughest Market Segment

Yup, pre-school is the hottest market segment as far as animated shows go. Everyone is in on the act from monstrous conglomerates like Disney and Viacom to independent studios run by husbands and wives. Of all the ages of people to create for, why did Amazon choose this one to focus on?

Would it not be easier to aim for older kids or teenagers instead? One would think so, and yet the company has so far only announced one pilot for that audience. Were there really fewer ideas submitted? Hardly.

It’s Not Quite As Lucrative As You Would Expect

That’s not to say that Amazon Studios won’t make a lot of money through pre-school shows (it will), the problem is that pre-school shows have pre-school audiences. Once they reach a certain age, they leave and never return. Related merchandise sales also stop, and it becomes necessary to constantly market to new entrants.

This can become problematic when you realise that pre-school shows themselves have a terrifyingly short lifespan. Sure Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer have been around for ages, but the vast majority of pre-school animated shows don’t tend to bridge generations very well. Part of the reason is that child psychology and parent’s demands are continuously changing. For example, in my day, there was much more of an emphasis on entertainment whereas today, it’s seriously difficult to get a pre-school show made and out there if it does not contain a significant amount of educational content.

So with such a limited audience, won’t that limit Amazon’s potential to make money from the series? The answer is yes, because unlike Disney, Viacom et al, Amazon does not also have animate shows aimed at older kids. The result is that once they “graduate” from their pre-school shows, there is nothing for them to transition to. Now bear in mind that at this point, such circumstances are circumstantial; Amazon can afford to wait before it announces shows for older kids, yet the fact remains that it is foregoing those audiences now.

Netflix is Still The One Amazon Studios Has To Beat

Although Amazon is focusing on creating original content, pseudo-competitor Netflix already has a large headstart. Sure they lack the original programming, but they have a massive library to draw upon. More so than that, they have become synonymous with the words “online streaming” and have a commanding lead over Amazon in the public’s mind. Netflix is also available on more platforms, already has a dedicated kid-friendly service (so Mummy and Daddy don’t have to play the progamming for the child) and has all the programming for the young audience once they get older.

Conclusion

I’ve lauded Amazon’s initiatives before and they’re logic remains solid for the most part. (I won’t go into the differences between their ‘pilot’ strategy and Netflix’s ‘all-in’ approach.) Their decision to aim for pre-school audiences remains a mysterious one. No doubt they will be drawing upon their vast amount of data on sales of toys to help them finesse their approach.

Would you rather see Amazon make an animated series for older viewers? Let us know with a comment!

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