SANTA MONICA, Calif. – There used to be just one way for getting shows on TV. Networks would spend tens of millions of dollars ordering scripts and shooting pilots and then show the fruits of their labor to focus groups. A small group of executives would cherry-pick a few promising shows to put on TV, hoping they’d be a hit with bigger audiences.
The process was unscientific, expensive, and often didn’t work. It’s still how most of the industry operates today.
Online retailing giant Amazon.com Inc. aims to put a twist on the business with its own foray into original TV show production. Starting soon, it will debut 14 of its own TV show pilots on its website, allowing anyone from the U.S., U.K. and Germany to watch them for free. The company will ask for viewer input, and hopes the comments and critiques will help decide which shows live or die.
The completed series will be available for no extra charge to subscribers of Amazon Prime, its $79-a-year rewards program.
By getting into original TV shows, Amazon is riding a wave of Internet-fueled people power that is transforming the entertainment industry.
“We’re not just playing that time-slot game,” says Alan Cohen, a producer of the Amazon comedy pilot, “Betas.”
“Here, you have the opportunity to put it out, and it doesn’t matter exactly what time it airs. People can find the show and it’ll be out there.”