Last week there was a suitable amount of buzz around the internet as Amazon, erstwhile behemoth retailing company, began soliciting ideas for original programming for its fledgling Amazon Studios enterprise. However, as Brown Bag head Cathal Gaffney was quick to tweet, the offer doesn’t make a lot of sense, at least not for a studio like his. But do they make sense for anybody?
From a creator’s standpoint, the deal could be quite good. An immediate $55K for your effort and a cut of merchandise sales thereafter. That’s not too shabby in the grand scheme of things and will probably placate the majority of independent creators.
However, the fact that there are a number of unknowns about the deal is concerning for a number of reasons. For example, who will produce the content? Animation is animation, but all studios are not created equal. At least with the major networks, you know that they will likely use their own studio for the production, or use a high-quality sub-contractor if need be. With the Amazon deal, nothing is mentioned. Assuming they want to keep costs down, that has the potential to mean the bottom of the barrel could be producing things.
Secondly, there is, as Cathal points out, not much incentive for traditional, established studios to submit. Outside of having a great idea, there is nothing else in the deal for them. Most studios want someone to pick up there idea, but they also want the opportunity to produce that idea and generate revenue for themselves. The Amazon deal doesn’t do that, which is a tough sell when your business needs a recurring revenue stream, not just a shot in the arm.
In fairness though, Amazon are quite upfront about the deal and have a comprehensive Q&A page that lays out a lot of the details in clear language. There seems to be a lot less chance that people will get swindled if their good faith is to be believed.
Overall, the Amazon initiative is a positive direction in terms of the new era of content creation that is currently dawning on us. Much remains to be seen, and its likely that most of the content will be from individuals and small independents, but I’m decidedly curious to see what ideas Amazon chooses to pick up. Will they be similar to the current offerings or will we see a bold internet company take a step in a different direction. Only time will tell.