The streaming arms race continues. Netflix will have spent $6 billion on content this year alone when 2017 draws to a close, Hulu is seeing a record number of sign-ups in recent months and Apple and Facebook are preparing a competitive leap into the fray. Where does that leave Amazon (AMZN)? On the offensive, of course.
Variety reports that the service has beefed up its production budget for 2018 and is developing three new ambitious and expensive sci-fi series to go along with the 67 shows and 20 films it has in various stages of development. While Transparent has been a critical darling, Amazon has not yet produced a Must Watch mainstream hit in the vein of Netflix (NFLX)’s Stranger Things and Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale. That has to be on their minds as they begin to swing for the fences with these new projects.
Per the outlet, the three high-concept new series are:
Lazarus, based on a comic book by Greg Rucka (Marvel’s Jessica Jones), is set in an alternative near future, where the world has been divided among 16 rival families, who run their territories in a feudal system. Each family has allies and enemies among the other families. To crush uprisings and fight wars, most families have a Lazarus: a one-person kill squad.
Snow Crash, which is based on Neal Stephenson’s cult novel, is a one-hour science fiction drama set in futuristic America. In reality, Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo’s CosoNostra Pizza Inc., but in the Metaverse he’s a warrior prince. Plunging headlong into the enigma of a new computer virus that’s striking down hackers everywhere, he races along the neon-lit streets on a search-and-destroy mission for the shadowy virtual villain.
Ringworld, a co-production with MGM, is based on Larry Niven’s sci-fi book series from the 70’s. It tells the story of Louis Gridley Wu, a bored man celebrating his 200th birthday in a technologically-advanced, future Earth. Upon being offered one of the open positions on a voyage, Louis joins a young woman and two aliens to explore Ringworld, the remote artificial ring beyond “Known Space.”
Well, those all sound absolutely awesome. While critically acclaimed series are great for reputation, they don’t always do enough to help attract large swaths of new subscribers. Amazon is hoping to do just that by hitting a Game of Thrones-sized homerun.
In an email to Amazon employees, per Variety, studio head Roy Price said that he’s feeling “bullish” about the next two years. “The biggest takeaway is that once again, our overall content investment is increasing, which will allow us to continue to meet customer demand around the world for high quality and engaging programming,” he wrote. Amazon is estimated to have invested $4.5 billion into its Prime Video programming this year.
But don’t think Amazon’s fate rests solely in the hands of just these three series. The service is dropping some particularly interesting projects in the near future including: Lore, a horror series from The Walking Dead producer Gale Anne Hurd, Carlton Cuse‘s Jack Ryan, Matthew Weiner’s The Romanoffs, Homecoming starring Julia Roberts and developed by Mr. Robot‘s Sam Esmail and a handful of other prestige projects.
It looks more and more as if Amazon is moving away from well-liked niche shows and trending closer to big event and genre series. While it’s concerning that smaller offerings are being squeezed out (it’s as if no one in the world likes Rectify), it does offer viewers the chance to see more ambitious programming.