Globes give Amazon 'screen cred'
SAN FRANCISCO/LOS ANGELES
AMAZON'S success at Sunday's Golden Globe Awards may help it win over two key audiences: Hollywood's A-list talent and the customers whom the retailer wants to join its Prime membership programme.
Transparent, about a divorced parent who comes out as transgender to his three grown children, won a Golden Globe for Best TV Comedy or Musical while lead Jeffrey Tambor won Lead Actor - TV Comedy. They are the first major wins for Amazon.
"It gives Amazon a way to go to the TV industry and say 'You do a show with us, you can win awards too', whereas it couldn't say that a week ago," said Eric Deggans, a TV critic at NPR.
More importantly for Amazon, awards are a new calling card for Prime, its US$99-a-year (S$132) club known for two-day shipping, which the company sees as key to growth.
Tomorrow, Amazon will unveil 13 pilots for programmes that, like Transparent, will be available for free only on Prime.
In some cases, Amazon has pitched Prime primarily as a video service, a shift in marketing from the focus on shipping.
In a September survey conducted by RBC Capital Markets, 10 per cent of Prime members said unlimited instant streaming video was its most important feature, up from 7.9 per cent in May 2013.
Prime members spend three times more on Amazon.com than other consumers, according to International Strategy and Investment Group analyst Greg Melich.
Michael Scanlon, who manages US$3.5 billion at Manulife Asset Management and holds Amazon shares, said drawing new Prime members was worth some video investment. "Over time, they should be able to get that paid back in a pretty powerful way," he said.
The Amazon Studios division was launched in 2010 and initially focused on shows from little-known writers, which would then be streamed to Prime members for feedback.
Amazon still streams pilots to the public, but has focused on hiring established talent. Studios' chief, Roy Price, said the wins would reinforce the new focus on "visionary artists".
The company has ramped up its promotion of the new shows, addressing a lack of awareness on how to watch its original content.
That contrasts with an earlier approach. "It said that it didn't believe in the normal patterns of advertising that would happen when on TV, because it had a different experience as a retailer," said Michael Lehmann, executive producer on an early Amazon show, Betas, which has been cancelled.
During the last three months of the year, less than 40 per cent of United States Prime members, or 14 million, watched at least one episode of Transparent, according to data from a Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) survey.
In contrast, 30 million Netflix members watched at least one episode of Orange Is The New Black and 28 million subscribers of Time Warner's HBO Go reported watching at least one episode of Game Of Thrones, said CIRP, which estimates that there are between 35 million and 40 million US Prime subscriptions.